The COVID-19 vaccine should be available for the general population in spring of 2021.
Credit unions are considering what’s best for the organization, employees, and members when deciding whether to require employees to get vaccinated.
The first reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States occurred in January 2020. The shockwaves from the virus — economically, socially, and physically — continue even 14 months later. Parts of American life are different; some might never be the same.
As spring approaches, however, so, too, does the most powerful weapon society has to contain the virus. Several pharmaceutical companies have developed approved vaccines, which have the power and potential to return a sense of normalcy to public life. For professional life, it might not be so simple.
The federal government does not mandate vaccination; however, a state or local entity might require it. In such a scenario, employees would not need to provide medical information beyond a vaccination record.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has updated its guidance from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic to address COVID-19. Of note, employees may be entitled to exemptions from the vaccine under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 2009 guidance suggested ADA-covered employers encourage employees to take the vaccine rather than require it, and there is no guidance that suggests otherwise for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Credit unions offer an interesting test case for vaccine rollout in a workplace. On one end, many credit unions transitioned back-office employees to remote work and, in some cases, unlocked additional employee productivity. Some, like Yolo Federal Credit Union ($364.0M, Woodland, CA), might retain flexible work set ups even after it’s safe to return to the office.
Pennie Holck, VP of HR and Organizational Development, Yolo FCU
“Roughly 50% of our workforce are remote capable, and we don’t plan to revert to our pre-pandemic structure,” says Pennie Holck, vice president of human resources and organizational development for Yolo FCU. “Our remote work assignments have had a positive impact on productivity, and staff reports they have an improved work-life balance.”
On the other end, essential front-line branch staff continuing to work near one another as well as members strengthens the case for requiring vaccination.
“The more likely it is that nonvaccinated employees put customers, fellow employees, or the general public at risk, the more compelling the case will be for a vaccination mandate,” says Jody McLeod, an attorney with McLeod Legal Solutions, PLLC, in Charlevoix, MI, in a December article for SHRM.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Woodland, CA
Data as of 12.31.20
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 23.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 6.1%
As vaccines become more accessible to the general population, credit unions will have to decide whether they will require it.
At Yolo, support employees might remain off-site, but front-line staff have and will continue to work from the branch.
“We will not mandate the vaccine,” Holck says. “However, we are highly recommending it.”
According to Holck, Yolo has already communicated its strategy and, additionally, is offering a free-floating day off with proof of vaccination to incentivize it.
The same is true at Langley Federal Credit Union ($3.6B, Newport News, VA).
Melissa Alexy, VP of HR, Langley FCU
According to Melissa Alexy, the credit union’s vice president of human resources, the credit union plans to take a phased approach and begin bringing remote employees back into the office on June 1. It, like Yolo, is not requiring employees to vaccinate but is “strongly advocating” it.
“We recognize there are personal and private reasons that drive decisions on vaccines,” Alexy says. “We want to respect those individual choices.”
For the nation’s largest credit union, maintaining flexibility remains a priority.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Newport News, VA
Data as of 12.31.20
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 39.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 13.0%
Remote work at Navy Federal Credit Union ($136.0B, Vienna, VA) will continue into the fourth quarter of 2021, at which point it hopes to have employees back in its offices. Like Yolo and Langley, Navy is “strongly encouraging” employees to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them but is not requiring it, says Holly Kortright, executive vice president and chief human resources officer.
That said, Kortright understands some team members might not feel comfortable returning to work until vaccination has reached critical mass. In that vein, the credit union will continue to follow CDC and local guidelines to assuage concerns.
“We want to ensure our team members feel safe and comfortable when they return to work,” Kortright says.
Holly Kortright, EVP and Chief HR Officer, Navy FCU
In addition to safety precautions, this means setting clear expectations and communicating constantly. Holck at Yolo says her team provides the latest vaccination updates and informs employees where to register for state notifications.
“Our staff has expressed appreciation for keeping them in the loop of vaccine availability,” Holck says.
Some research suggests the success or failure of an employer’s response to the vaccine is the degree of trust that exists between employee and employer. Is the employer doing what’s best for the organization? Is it keeping its employees safe? Do they feel comfortable coming to work?
Holck at Yolo learned early on in the pandemic that staff wanted to be kept abreast of updates and full transparency was invaluable.
“They wanted to know what we were doing to protect them and our members,” Holck says. Maintaining two-way communication also made staff feel appreciated and heard.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Vienna, VA
Data as of 01.31.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 29.2%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 9.3%
As Yolo is not requiring the vaccine, transparency and open communication allows the credit union to educate its staff about the importance of the vaccine to the organization’s operations while allowing staff members to ultimately make their own decision. The same is true at Langley and Navy, too.
Empowering employees to make decisions based on the best available information shows these credit unions trust their staff members. It also ensures strong internal cultures built before the pandemic don’t fall because of it.
“By allowing our employees to choose what’s best for them, their families, and their health, we believe our culture will remain strong,” says Kortright from Navy.
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