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Safety and Wellness Policies: 3 Strategies for Getting Employees On Board

CoAdvantage- Compliance with COVID-19 safety precautions in the U.S. has been generally high but also indisputably inconsistent. A recent study from the University of Southern California’s Center for Economic and Social Research found that while more than 80% of respondents wore a mask in the last part of May 2021, nearly 80% also had close contact with people with whom they don’t live, and fewer than 60% avoided public gatherings or crowds.

Employers can likely expect much of the same unevenness in employee adherence to company safety and wellness policies. In fact, most employers will have to deal with at least some employees who don’t want to get tested or vaccinated or don’t want to follow specific safety protocols.

How can employers deal with workers who resist their own safety and wellness requirements? 

1: Identify and address “friction points.”

When establishing safety guidelines for employees and customers, businesses need to understand that resistance is part of what they need policies for. Thus, any safety and wellness plans need to proactively address potential objections and noncompliance.

Loran Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, argues that most COVID-19 safety procedures have specific points where they are most likely to break down, which he calls “friction points.

He cites the example of incomplete or contradictory policies, rules that inadvertently creating an unworkable situation. For instance, how can employees eat lunch if the rules state they have to wear masks at all times? Carefully thinking through such friction points and eliminating them can reduce noncompliance.

2: Make compliance easy.

Safety and wellness policies should be easy to adhere to. Think through possible difficulties that could arise and address them proactively. For example, if you require masks on-premises, consider making a supply of masks available to employees or customers if they forget or leave their own masks behind. If you are instituting a policy requiring, or a program encouraging, employee vaccinations against COVID-19, permit the employee to use paid leave to get the shot(s) and/or deal with any side effects, so they don’t have to worry about foregoing income.

3: Incentivize compliance.

Beyond easing compliance, employers can also make compliance more desirable. Employers have multiple options here. For instance, compliance with safety rules can be integrated into employee reviews and result in higher scores and more rewards. The employer can create some sort of incentive or reward program for employees who demonstrate the best compliance, like the COVID-19 equivalent of a perfect attendance award.

An important proviso, however: employers need to be prepared to consider and offer “reasonable accommodations” if employees who are eligible under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act make an allowable request for an exemption. For more information, read our article “How to help at-risk workers avoid COVID-19 while still complying with labor law.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about CoAdvantage’s ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.