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Require workers to be vaccinated? Not on Main Street: Survey of Small Business Owners

According to the latest CNBC | SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, just over one in five small business owners (22%) will require their employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 when available. Twice as many (42%) say they won’t make vaccinations mandatory.

The question of whether to demand that workers be vaccinated as soon as possible has become a controversial topic in the business world. With little guidance from the federal government, business leaders have been left to make decisions on their own.

Some business owners see vaccinations as the key to a full reopening, some companies even offer incentives to workers who get vaccinated, while others want to avoid going over their limits. The new survey, conducted Jan. 25-31 of 2,157 small business owners nationwide using SurveyMonkey’s online platform and based on its survey methodology, reveals a particular hesitation among the small business community, which has already spent the last year struggling to adapt to the pandemic. to.

More than four in 10 (43%) small business owners say they have had to shut down at some point due to the pandemic, including 20% ​​who say they have since reopened to limited capacity; 10% who say they still have not reopened; and even 4% who say they have closed, reopened and then closed again.

Just over half of small business owners (55%) say they could continue to operate for more than a year under current business conditions. For these small businesses, widespread adoption of the vaccine may be the key to a full reopening.

While small business owners generally have limited enthusiasm for immunization requirements, some industries appear to be more open to the idea than others, especially those that rely on close person-to-person interactions between customers and clients. the staff.

Restaurants and hotels most likely to vaccinate

Owners of small businesses in the accommodation and food services industry (eg, restaurants, bars, casinos, bed and breakfasts, caterers) are among the most likely to report wanting to require their employees to be vaccinated. But, there is no widespread enthusiasm even among this group.

Some 28% say they will force their employees to get the vaccine once it becomes available, while 33% say they are not sure yet. Both are well above the overall averages. Meanwhile, only 32% say they are sure they will not require their employees to be vaccinated, which is 10 points below the overall average.

Small business owners in the accommodation and food services industry are among those hit hardest during 2020, and this continues to this day. Only 42% say their business has remained open throughout the pandemic, below the overall average of 54%. Less than half (45%) say they could survive more than a year under current business conditions.

Some major players in the industry have already mobilized to push their workers to get vaccinated, whether they force them to do so or simply strongly encourage them. Marriott and Chipotle have both urged their employees to get vaccinated, but neither is making it a requirement. Darden restaurants, which own chains like Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse, go so far as to pay workers to get vaccinated.

By encouraging rather than forcing their workers to get vaccinated, business owners are trying to walk a fine line. Polls have consistently shown that in this increasingly partisan environment, any statement about vaccinations will be viewed through a partisan lens.

Partisan division over vaccines persists

In the latest survey results, small business owners who identify as Democrats are more than twice as likely as those who are Republicans to say they will ask their employees for the Covid-19 vaccine (39 % versus 14%). This gap is greater than any other gap, including by industry, number of employees or type of business.

This gap also corresponds to similar disparities between Republicans and Democrats: in their support for the obligation to vaccinate workers and in their own willingness to be vaccinated.

In Gallup’s latest follow-up survey, 91% of Democrats but only 51% of Republicans say they would be ready to get the Covid-19 vaccine now if they could get the vaccine for free.

In our latest CNBC | SurveyMonkey workforce survey, conducted in November of more than 9,000 workers nationwide, 75% of Democrats said they supported mandatory workplace vaccinations an times they would be widely available, compared to just 41% of Republicans.

Finally, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll had exactly twice as many Democrats as Republicans saying they have already received the vaccine or plan to do so as soon as possible (64% vs. 32%). Their poll also shows a more fundamental division by partisanship: 71% of Republicans say the decision to get the vaccine is “a personal choice,” while an equal and opposite number of 70% of Democrats say the decision to get vaccinated is “a personal choice.” getting vaccinated is “everyone’s responsibility. to protect the health of others. ”

At its core, it’s the same question small business owners ask themselves when assessing competing demands: empowering their employees to choose what’s best for their own health rather than making an executive decision. on what’s best for the business as a whole.

On Thursday, Comcast NBCUniversal launched Plan your vaccine, a nationwide awareness campaign, website and interactive tool that will provide the latest news and information on when and where people can get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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