‘Tis the season! As temperatures fall, the risk of illness rises. This is the time of year that many physicians recommend getting the flu vaccine. But some household employees may not want to get it. Families might be concerned, especially with nannies, that someone spending so much close time with children is not vaccinated. Can household employers require flu shots for nannies?
Generally speaking, employers with a specific reason to do so may mandate flu shots. This is particularly true when employees work with sick people or have very close contact with vulnerable populations, such as small children.
It’s also worth noting that the flu vaccine will not completely eliminate the flu, even if your nanny gets a shot. That being said, if a nanny objects based on a reason relating to his or her protected class status, you will need to look into accommodations for them. For example, if a nanny has a disability that prevents her from having vaccinations, or a nanny has a religious objection to vaccinations, there must be an exception to the rule. While vaccine allergies and side effects are rare, such medical and health exceptions must be considered.
Additionally, a nanny may react negatively to mandated flu shots and employers should consider the potential impact on retaining that nanny. To avoid possible litigation and morale issues, we recommend that employers explain the reason behind the flu shot requirement, set a deadline by which the nanny must receive a flu shot, and discuss any objections the nanny may have openly. As a best practice, employers should also communicate that they will pay for the vaccination.
The bottom line is that this issue needs to be discussed prior to hiring a nanny. If you will require a nanny to get a flu shot, they should be made aware of it during the interview process, and your policy should be in the employee handbook. Some nannies will have no objection, but others may see that mandate as a reason to refuse the job. But it’s better to know ahead of time, rather than risk hiring a great nanny and then only learning later on that she has an objection to getting the flu shot, and face potentially losing a valued employee.
For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.