Pandemic: Business Travel and Vaccine Mandates

A return to normal for business travel

Due to the risks, companies that rely on business travel have dramatically changed their strategies and plans during the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccination efforts well underway, air travel is returning to a new normal.
However, there are ongoing complicated discussions about whether businesses can require employees to get the vaccine. This issue is even more critical for corporate travel.

Why companies would want to require vaccinations

The reasons companies would want to require business travelers to be vaccinated are pretty obvious. It impedes the spread of COVID-19, which helps prevent the risk of mutations. It also reduces the chance that employees contract the disease during work trips. As such, there is no serious threat to the employee’s health and the project’s completion, which is the reason for the travel in the first place.
Also, if an unvaccinated employee travels, they must quarantine when they get back home. This would require them to work from home for at least a week or two, even if transitioning back to working in the office.

The question becomes whether companies can require vaccination for travel

This leads to the critical question of whether companies can legally require employees who travel for business to be vaccinated. The question applies to both domestic and international business flights. In other words, can a company tell their employees they cannot go on international business trips without getting vaccinated?

It Probably Is Not Legal, at Least Not Yet
At least for now, companies probably cannot restrict business travel based on vaccination status. Notably, not everyone around the world has the option to get a vaccine. While all adults are already eligible in the United States, this is not the case in many countries. It isn’t practical or ethical, and probably not legal, to require employees to have a vaccination when not everyone has even had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
In this sense, vaccinations should not be an explicit requirement for business travelers.

But Employers Can Choose Not to Send Unvaccinated Employees for Other Reasons
There is some wiggle room here, as companies can send someone else on a work trip if their first choice is not vaccinated and does not want to be.
One option would be following the common practice of requiring medical examinations before longer or high-risk work trips. That examination confirms that there is no medical reason the employee cannot go on the trip. It could be argued that any trip during COVID is high-risk. As such, companies could require a medical examination and decide that unvaccinated employees have too high of a risk and cannot travel.

Other countries may require vaccination anyway.

The entire conversation about whether companies require business travelers to be vaccinated may soon be moot. As more people get vaccinated, some countries will likely only allow vaccinated people to enter. This would take the issue out of the hands of companies as employees and businesses need to follow the rules of the country they are in.

Expect business travel to return.

The opinion of the experts in the industry is that business travel is slowly getting back to its average pace. This becomes clear as you look at the data from trackers like Oversee and information shared in the press. For example, Delta Air Lines has predicted that there will be a significant increase in business travel in the fall.

As such, businesses should operate assuming they will slowly increase business travel back up to standard. As such, companies should take the appropriate actions. These include streamlining and optimizing both travel budgets and policies. Just be sure to keep the legal concerns about vaccination requirements in mind as you create and enforce those policies.

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