COVID-19 vaccinations have begun to be administered across the country with tens of millions of Americans expected to be vaccinated in the next several months. Healthcare workers and the elderly living in long-term care homes have been prioritized first. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says those who are under 65 and healthy may be able to get their vaccinations as early as April. For household employers, this development brings up the question: can I require my nanny to get a vaccination?
The simple answer is yes. You can make a COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment for your nanny.
But should you? Is this a good employment practice? There are some other considerations to make as you determine a course of action. We will answer three questions that may be on your mind to help guide your choices. While you may be months away from having to decide on mandatory vaccinations, and the law in this area will develop over time, now is a good time to start understanding the topic and considering your options before vaccines become more widely available.
Can I require my nanny to get a COVID-19 vaccination?
As we mentioned, you may require your nanny to get a COVID-19 vaccination or provide proof that they have received one to continue working or return to work.
Keep in mind that any vaccination-related questions must be job-related and any medical information obtained during a vaccination requirement must be kept confidential. You should caution employees to provide proof of vaccination that does not include their personal medical information.
What if you really adore your nanny? They are punctual, responsible, and engaged. Your kids love their caregiver. Finding the right nanny for your family may have taken some time. Shuffling through applications, setting up interviews, calling references … do you want to go through all of that again if your nanny refuses to get vaccinated and leaves your family?
For some families, the risk of bringing the virus into their home is too great even if family members are vaccinated. It is a chance they cannot take. For others, vaccination may not be as important, and they would rather hold on to their nanny.
Before you decide whether to require your nanny to get vaccinated, have a conversation with them about it. How do they feel about vaccinations? Do they have legitimate concerns? They may have a fear of shots or sincere doubts about the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Let’s say you do require a vaccination. Your nanny is not thrilled about it but does not want to lose their job, so they go ahead and get vaccinated. Now you may be dealing with employee morale issues. Your once responsible and engaged nanny may be less than enthused to be working for you and that may be reflected in their work. They could also start looking for another job.
An alternative solution could be to encourage a COVID-19 vaccination rather than require it. You could avoid employee morale issues while keeping up other necessary safety precautions such as mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing while in public.
If your nanny needs to pay for their mandated vaccination, it is a best practice to provide a stipend or reimburse them for that cost as well as provide paid time off if they need to get vaccinated during working hours.
Can I fire my nanny if they refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccination?
Yes, you can terminate your nanny’s employment if they refuse to get vaccinated and you have made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory as a condition of employment. The question is whether you want to go that route. You could suddenly be without a caregiver and scrambling for childcare. Make sure you have a plan in place in case you do decide to let your nanny go. Firings can be a messy business so make sure you are following best practices when terminating your nanny.
If your nanny cannot get vaccinated for COVID-19 because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance, you should discuss the concerns to determine if you must make a reasonable accommodation or if it poses an undue hardship. Typically, employees who refuse to take a vaccine based on a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief are entitled to request a “reasonable accommodation” from getting the vaccine. An employer must allow the worker who refuses the vaccine under those conditions an opportunity to perform the essential functions of their job.
For a nanny, there may be no “reasonable accommodation” possible and it could cause you “undue hardship” as you would be without childcare. A nanny cannot telework or be reassigned to a different job or location as a traditional employer may be able to do to accommodate a worker. This does not mean you can automatically terminate your nanny. They may have other rights under federal, state, or local authorities.
Moral, ethical, or personal objections are insufficient reasons to refuse an employer-mandated vaccine.
You could offer an alternative form of the vaccine that does not include objectionable ingredients or ingredients that could trigger an employee’s medical condition (such as a vaccine that does not contain egg, swine, or fetal cell products).
Below, in the section titled “Additional household employer guidance,” we detail other steps you can take to maintain a safe home if you decide to keep – rather than fire – an employee who refuses to be vaccinated.
Can I make a COVID-19 vaccination a condition to be hired as my nanny?
Yes, you can make vaccination a condition of employment. Once again, you will need to weigh other factors in your hiring decision. Making a COVID-19 vaccination mandatory may limit the number of nannies interested in working for you. It can be difficult enough finding the right nanny for your family without placing additional conditions on the job.
Additional household employer guidance
Mandating a COVID-19 vaccination is not the only step a household employer can take to help ensure their home is safe. You could:
- Ask an employee if they:
- are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat;
- have been tested for COVID-19;
- have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19
- Require an employee to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms and provide a doctor’s note before returning to work
- Take an employee’s body temperature before they enter your home (keeping in mind that some people with COVID-19 do not have a fever)
- Ask an employee who says they feel ill or who call in sick, questions about their symptoms as part of screening for COVID-19
- Require your employee to wear protective gear (like masks and gloves) and observe infection control practices (like regular hand washing and social distancing protocols)
- Screen job applicants for COVID-19 symptoms – including taking their temperature – after making conditional job offers
- Withdraw a job offer when you need the applicant to start immediately but they have COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19
You may exclude an employee with COVID-19, or symptoms associated with COVID-19, from the workplace (your home) because their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others. They may also be denied entrance to your home if they refuse to have their temperature taken or to answer questions about whether they have COVID19, have symptoms associated with COVID-19, or have been tested for COVID-19.
If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or state or local public health officials recommend that people who visit specified locations remain at home for a certain period of time, you may ask whether your employee has traveled to these locations.
The CDC offers additional guidance for employers.
Federal and state laws
While employers are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act only if they have 15 or more employees, smaller employers – like families with a nanny – may be subject to similar rules under applicable state or local laws. Check your state’s labor department website for any laws that may apply to household employment including those pertaining to anti-discrimination.
If your employee has an adverse reaction to a mandated vaccine, it may form the basis of a workers’ compensation claim in your state.
In addition, federal and state authorities may mandate vaccinations to preserve the health and welfare of the public.
For example, in New York, state lawmakers introduced a bill that would mandate the vaccination of all individuals who are known to be safe to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This mandate would only take effect if it is determined that New Yorkers are not developing sufficient immunity from COVID-19.
Download The Complete Guide to Household Payroll
Get our complimentary guide and learn everything you need to know about paying your employees legally and filing your taxes the right way.