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: Despite labor shortages, many small businesses are OK with firing employees who don’t get vaccinated

In the face of widespread labor shortages, many employers, especially small business owners, are skating on thin ice with their employees. If an employee quits or is fired, it could take months or more to find a replacement.

Yet a majority of small businesses (61%) have already implemented or plan to implement employee vaccine mandates, according to a new survey of around 500 small businesses published by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife
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Some 43% of small-business owners say they would fire employees who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates. But just a sliver of small business owners (10%) said they’ve already done so. 

Small business owners in the retail sector are the most supportive of employee vaccine mandates, according to the survey, which was conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. Some 70% of them said they have implemented or will implement vaccine mandates, compared to some 54% of service-sector business owners, who were the least likely to do so.

“Support for vaccine mandates or regular testing rank highest for [the retail] category because their employees and customers are in close contact,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“While a majority of small businesses support vaccination mandates or regular testing, those same employers are worried about losing employees when vaccinations become mandatory,” Sullivan added.

“Some 43% of small business owners would fire employees who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates”

Last month, President Joe Biden announced a forthcoming vaccine mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, an effort that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is heading. 

“‘Even though most of our members aren’t impacted by President Biden’s mandate, those who are have expressed concerns it could exacerbate existing labor shortages and weekly testing costs could become very costly’”

— Molly Day, vice president of public affairs at the National Small Business Association

Employers that don’t comply with the rule, which is not yet in effect nor even formally written, will be subject to a $14,000 fine per violation.

Members of the National Small Business Association, a trade group, “remain divided on a mandate,” said Molly Day, the group’s vice president of public affairs.

“Even though most of our members aren’t impacted by President Biden’s mandate, those who are have expressed concerns it could exacerbate existing labor shortages and weekly testing costs could become very costly,” Day told MarketWatch. “That said, concerns over ongoing outbreaks/variants are growing among small businesses and the fear of shutdowns is palpable.”

Meanwhile, Tyson Foods
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announced Wednesday that 96% of its 120,000 person workforce was fully vaccinated, as a result of a vaccine mandate that was announced nearly three months ago. 

“Has this made a difference in the health and safety of our team members? Absolutely,” Donnie King, the CEO of Tyson Foods said in a memo. “We’ve seen a significant decline in the number of active cases companywide.”

“I’d also like to say to those who remain unvaccinated — this is your choice, and we respect that choice. If you change your mind and want to rejoin Tyson — let us know. Our doors are open,” King added in the memo.

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