Deloitte makes vaccination mandatory for US workforce

30 August 2021 4 min. read
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Deloitte has told staff coming into its US offices from October, that they must be vaccinated against Covid-19. Workers will have to disclose their vaccination status on a secure Deloitte website.

After a rapid rollout, the vaccination rate across much of the West has stalled dramatically over the summer. In particular, public opinion and crumbling health infrastructure means that this has been most pronounced in the US. Initially, the nation’s vaccine campaign accelerated quickly out of the blocks. However, while President Joe Biden initially set a goal of having 70% of Americans fully vaccinated by the Fourth of July, the number remains beached on a plateau of around 50% at the end of August.

The pace of vaccination has slowed to a crawl in at least 14 states. According to recent estimates by the Guardian, continuing at this rate, it will take until summer or fall 2022 to reach a goal of 70% vaccinated in states such as Idaho, Montana and North Dakota.

Deloitte makes vaccination mandatory for US workforce

At the same time, partisan politics has found both of the country’s leading parties unwilling or unable to change things. While the Democrats continue to flounder with the delivery of meaningful infrastructure improvements – leaving the vaccine roll-out in the hands of state or local governments – the Republicans find themselves beholden to a large section of their base who vehemently oppose the vaccine campaign. Former President Donald Trump was even publicly booed at a rally where he admitted to taking the vaccine and suggested others do so.

In this context, employers are increasingly deciding to take matters into their own hands regarding the immunity of their workforce. Unless there is a large uptick in the number of working adults having the jab, many firms face the potential of outbreaks in the office over the coming months – costing them time and money in the process. As a result, after months of lobbying and encouragement, businesses are considering more forceful methods of ensuring their workers are immunised.

While there is still no blanket protocol for the airline industry, for example, Delta Air Lines has become one of the first high-profile companies to impose a health-insurance surcharge for unvaccinated employees. While still leaving the choice in the hands of staff, should they opt not to get vaccinated, they could face a bill of $200 per month starting in November. Meanwhile, US oil giant Chevron has begun requiring some employees to receive Covid-19 vaccinations, and is considering a workforce-wide mandate. In the case of Walt Disney Company, the firm has already recently reached a deal with unions representing workers at Walt Disney World in Orlando, meaning employees must show proof of Covid-19 vaccinations.

Now, professional services firm Deloitte has become the latest major entity to enter the fray. The Big Four firm has informed employees across its US operations that staff will require vaccination against Covid-19 if they are to enter its offices beginning from mid-October. Deloitte US employed more than 110,000 people as of fiscal year 2020, and has more than 80 locations throughout the country.

According to Bloomberg, the requirement will go into effect seven weeks after the US Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine. Workers will have to inform the company of their vaccination status via a secure page of Deloitte’s employee website, an email from Deloitte US CEO Joe Ucuzoglu confirmed to staff.

“The ability to participate in the broader business ecosystem will be increasingly challenging for those who are not vaccinated,” he added. Bloomberg reported that Ucuzoglu also said Deloitte workers should comply with clients’ vaccination rules at their offices.

The situation is by no means unique to the US. Vaccine scepticism, bipartisanship, conspiracy theories and distrust of the government’s handling of the pandemic have also seen the UK’s jab campaign falter much like those across the Atlantic. UK employers have been far more cautious when it comes to mandating vaccination, however.

The country has marginally stronger working rights than the US, and as a result, if vaccination requirements aren’t appropriately handled, companies could find themselves facing accusations of discrimination or unfair dismissal. As a result, the majority of bosses continue to encourage, rather than require the jab. Most publicly, this has seen many Premier League football teams note they are struggling to convince their players to have the jab.

Exceptions so far are limited to a few firms. One is Bloomsbury, the publisher behind Harry Potter, which told UK staff that they need to be double-jabbed before they can return to its offices, or they will have to continue working from home. Meanwhile, Charlie Mullins, the outspoken founder of Pimlico Plumbers, courted controversy in January 2021 when he said he would introduce a “no jab, no job” policy for its 400 staff, though the legal implications of this have been a matter of constant debate since.