Why your COVID-19 vaccination status might impact whether you’re hired, according to a new study

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The study also reported on the possible work repercussions and mental health concerns of employees who test positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine

Image: iStock.com/Udom Pinyo

Over three in five hiring managers would ask about the vaccination status of a job candidate, with Republicans (69%) more likely to ask than Democrats (54%), a new study finds. An even higher percentage (61%) said the answers to those vaccination questions would impact their ultimate hiring decision, according to a study by online invoicing provider Skynova.

On Monday, President Joe Biden urged more companies to require COVID-19 vaccines, just hours after the U.S. formally approved the shot from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

While testing positive for COVID-19 is scary enough, workplace repercussions can make matters even worse, the company noted. Employees can experience social stigma, the threat of financial loss and the mental stress of reporting their diagnosis to coworkers. At the same time, the decision of whether people should be vaccinated has become a controversial topic as people begin returning to the workplace.

SEE: COVID-19 vaccination policy (TechRepublic Premium)

Over 57% of employees were encouraged by their employers to get vaccinated, while only 1% were discouraged and 41% were neither encouraged nor discouraged, according to Skynova.

The company said it spoke to hundreds of employees who had received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis to better understand the experience in the workplace. Employees shared what happened, including who they told–if anyone–how the information was received and what repercussions they faced.

What happens when you test positive for COVID-19 at work 

While physical health is the primary concern of those who contract COVID-19, especially for certain risk categories, mental health is also impacted by receiving a positive diagnosis.

Nearly as many employees (almost 23%) felt extremely concerned about their mental health as they did for their physical health (28%) when finding out they had COVID-19, according to the Skynova study. More than a third were also extremely or very concerned about their work, given that nearly 35% of respondents lost income due to missed hours, 3.5% received a warning and 2.1% were even fired, according to the study.

More than a quarter of employees chose to work throughout their entire illness even though it took them an average of 12.8 days to recover physically, the company said. Over 57% reported that they experienced no work-related repercussions.

Employees with symptoms said it took almost 13 days on average to recover from COVID-19. Further, 30% of employees experienced “health repercussions following their recovery,” the company said in a blog post.

SEE: Post COVID-19 return to work policy (TechRepublic Premium)

More than half of the managers Skynova spoke with had been informed by an employee of a positive diagnosis for COVID-19, the company said.

“The most common response (for Republicans and Democrats alike) was to handle the matter privately with the employee. Only 18% reported the diagnosis to the team or to higher-ups,” the company said.

Employment attorneys said there is no law requiring employers to let others in the office know when someone has tested positive for COVID-19. There is no law that specifically requires employers to inform workers about a positive case in the workplace, however the CDC recommends that employers alert workers if possible exposure occurred, Skynova said.

Managers’ perspective on getting vaccinated for COVID-19

Twelve percent of hiring managers reported being previously medically diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the Skynova study. Fifty-one percent of hiring managers said they had been told by an employee about their positive COVID-19 test result.

In response, nearly 40% said they handled the matter privately with the employee, while almost 21% gave the employee vacation time and 18% reported it to the team/higher-ups.

The study also gauged responses by political affiliation and found that nearly 95% of Democratic hiring managers were pro-vaccine compared with 73.5% of Republican hiring managers.

Further, almost 29% of hiring managers said they would require their employees to get vaccinated, according to the report.

Legal requirements about reporting your medical information are murky

Reporting your medical information is tricky because legal requirements are unclear, and employees are reportedly facing stigma, financial loss, and, in some cases, being let go, Skynova said.

“Evidently, the political affiliation of your boss may also influence the fallout from discussing a positive result,” the company said.

As vaccinations continue to roll out across the country, Skynova observed that “American workers are likely to find that getting vaccinated could contribute to their workplace happiness. Employers were quick to say vaccination questions would be asked during the application process and may ultimately factor into hiring decisions.”

Skynova said the study included findings from two separate surveys it conducted. The first surveyed 297 employees who were medically diagnosed with COVID-19 during the pandemic. The average age of respondents was roughly 31 years old, the company said.

The second study surveyed 206 hiring managers in upper management positions, Skynova said. 

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