Employers ought to requite that trust by mandating that their staff who work indoors with other employees are vaccinated for Covid-19. Public health experts agree it’s the only safe way to operate an office, factory, or warehouse right now.

Making tough calls

Legal ambiguity is frequently cited by businesses reluctant to impose mandates, but often doing the right thing—in this case, saving lives—requires taking on some risk. (Also, vaccine mandates are clearly legal in the US, and very likely to be upheld by Europe’s human-rights court.)

Businesses in tech, finance, and media tend to be the most progressive on employee relations, and many of us (including Quartz) have started to require that employees coming back to offices are fully vaccinated. But even in these industries, a lot of big companies are opting for half-measures instead, such as segregating unvaccinated employees or requiring weekly Covid tests.

Back in December, when a bunch of top CEOs discussed the pandemic at a Yale summit, mandates were not particularly controversial: 78% agreed that coronavirus vaccines should be required (pdf, p. 8) at offices, whenever they reopened. In the months since, the same CEOs have surely consulted their more-cautious lawyers and seen how contentious vaccination debates can get. It’s a hard call to make, no doubt.

CEOs love to wax heroic about making the tough decisions. And some, like restaurateur Danny Meyer of the Union Square Hospitality Group, are making them. But the vast majority of employers, large and small, are for now just taking the same laissez-faire approach to science as their governments. What an opportunity this could be to show that the public’s growing faith in business to solve societal problems may actually be warranted.

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