woman getting flu shot Makingvaccinations mandatory most likely isn't an avenue to prevent youremployees from contracting a disease, but there are some actionsyou can take. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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Between addressing employee experience and finding ways to keep talent in an economy with such alow unemployment rate, companies have enough on their plate to makesure there's no slowdown in business operations. The last thingbusinesses need is an illness outbreak to interrupt the flow ofwork.

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In the U.S., the biggest fear of people not reporting to workoutside of the flu and the common cold is food poisoning froma company lunch event.

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At least food poisoning isn't contagious. And we've done apretty good job at addressing flu in the workplace, but anotherdisease may be about to find its way into the office, surprisingly,is measles.

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Related: Has the internet killed sick days?

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Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, butaccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventionthere have been 1,044 cases of the disease in the U.S. so far in 2019,and we're only halfway through the year. We are now in jeopardy oflosing our elimination status for measles.

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Recently, New York ended religious exemptions for immunizations tohelp address the measles outbreak in the state. California,Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Maine also do not allow areligious exemption.

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Most of the vaccination talk has revolved around parents'decision whether or not to vaccinate their children and the impacton “herd” immunity in schools and communities. However, this is nota problem isolated to schools and children. What we're not talkingabout is what happens when an unvaccinated child becomes an adultand enters the workplace.

Requiring vaccinations is a gray area

Making vaccinations mandatory could be in violation of theAmericans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil RightsAct of 1964. The best advice to make sure you're in compliance withthese and other laws is to consult an attorney.

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Some businesses are able to require vaccinations. For example, ahospital might be able to require vaccinations of health careworkers because they deal with patients. A financial institutionmight not be able to require the same immunizations. It can dependon industry and location.

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Right now, making vaccinations mandatory most likely isn't anavenue to prevent your employees from contracting measles or anyother disease that may make a resurgence in society. Businessesshould review their policies and consult an attorney to see whatpolicies they can legally enact to comply with federal, state, andlocal regulations.

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A violation isn't worth changing your workplace vaccinationpolicy without seeking legal advice, but there are other ways toencourage employees to get vaccinated.

What you can do to help prevent outbreaks

How many people do you know who have had smallpox? At one time afeared and deadly disease, smallpox was lethal in 30 percent of cases,according to the WorldHealth Organization. This disease killed millions of people forthousands of years. Thanks to vaccinations, it has beeneradicated.

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It's rare that you hear about cases of polio. The generations ofworkers born before the early 1970s might remember having measles.How about contracting chicken pox? It used to be a rite of passageas a child, but younger generations (people born after 1995) nowhave access to a vaccine so that they never have to contractit.

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Vaccines have been around for a long time and their use hasdecreased the prevalence of awful illnesses, saved lives, andcreated a healthier society.

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1. Use your current flu template. You probablycan't require the flu vaccine, but you can use the same plan formeasles that you use for flu. The CDC estimates that the fluvaccine reduces the risk of flu somewhere between 40 and60 percent. If you don't offer flu vaccines, the CDC has aguide to help you implement an immunization clinic. Instead of justproviding the annual flu shot, provide all typical vaccinations. Ifyou're a small business, consider teaming up with other smallbusinesses in the community to host one vaccination clinic for allof your employees.

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2. Fight the misinformation battle. Part of thevaccination debate was started due to bad information flying overthe internet. Businesses can help by providing employees withinformation from recognized and respected medical resources. WHOoffers these responses for physiciansaddressing their patients concerns and combating badinformation.

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3. Promote wellness. A survey by America'sHealth Insurance Plan showed that health insurance coverage is akey factor in choosing to stay at their current job for 56 percent of respondents. Twenty-threepercent said free preventive services was part of feeling satisfiedwith their health plan. As a benefits professional, you should notonly educate employees on your benefits plan, but promote generalwellness for the company. This includes everything from schedulingannual Q&As with employees for the company health plan tokeeping wellness top-of-mind by offering perks like not having totake time off from work to attend the company vaccination clinic.Go the extra step and invite their families too.

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This isn't the first time society has been concerned with thesafety of vaccines and it won't be the only time. Every little bitcompanies can do to educate and encourage vaccinations isbeneficial to society as a whole.

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By promoting overall wellness, providing accurate informationbacked up by science, and facilitating access to diseaseprevention, benefits professionals can nurture employee health thatcontributes to a successful organization.

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Steven Payne is the COO at PeopleStrategy and provides long-range and tacticalexecution of strategic technology initiatives. He has also servedas CTO and CSO of the company, helping to build an effective eHCMprogram that combines technology, services, and benefits.

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