Anti-vaxxers may find it tough to get hired, as many companies in India are introducing their own versions of a “vaccine passport” in an increasing push to onboard only people who are vaccinated against Covid-19 with at least one dose.
Companies across sectors have unofficially told search consultants and staffing firms to consider only vaccinated candidates. Human resources heads of top companies, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed reservations against hiring someone who is not vaccinated.
“Quite a few companies — especially in sectors such as manufacturing, ecommerce and industrial — are making at least a single shot a necessity to get hired,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, executive vice president at staffing services provider Teamlease Services.
Many of these companies pose the question on the vaccination status during pre-interview documentation or at the time of interview. Some have made vaccination certificates a prerequisite for inducting new employees.
But they are not putting it down in writing, as vaccination is completely voluntary and cannot be forced up on an individual as per government policy. However, there is a tacit understanding that the candidates must have taken at least one dose to get inducted, said Anshul Prakash, partner at law firm Khaitan & Co.
For frontline staff, companies primarily look for vaccinated candidates, citing consumer confidence and workplace safety. Even for white collar professionals, they are advising consultants to preferably hire vaccinated folks. They also nudge and incentivise existing staff to get the jabs.
“Why should I hire someone who is not vaccinated? I will want to protect the health of my employees … why leave anything to chance because business suffers at the end of the day,” said the HR head of a large manufacturing company.
Aditya Narayan Mishra, chief executive of CIEL HR Services, said organisations want to check vaccination status at the time of recruitment. “If someone doesn’t want to take the vaccine, companies will tell us to remove that person from the list.”
“It is becoming a matter of safety and hygiene especially when the personnel are hired for on-ground roles such as in retail, banking, hospitality, and manufacturing industries,” said Lohit Bhatia, President- Workforce Management, Quess Corp.
Companies such as Amazon, RPG Group, Motilal Oswal, Shadowfax, Dunzo, Licious, and Wakefit.co said they are educating and encouraging people about vaccination. Though they agreed that vaccination is a personal choice, many have set a clear cut deadline between August and October to get their entire workforce inoculated.
At brokerage firm Motilal Oswal Financial Services, new recruits are encouraged to take the shot, though it is not made mandatory, said Sudhir Dhar, its executive director-HR. “We are telling people in the offer letters when they join that we will appreciate it if they are vaccinated.”
Industry insiders said companies are in a bit of a spot as the government has not made vaccination mandatory, but at the same time there is a strong push to get the workforce vaccinated at the earliest. Courts have also given what may be seen as conflicting views.
The Meghalaya High Court recently stated that forced vaccination would violate an individual’s fundamental right to life, liberty and livelihood, while the Madras High Court has expressed concerns over the right to refuse vaccination, given the larger public health consideration.
“Companies are faced with this whole debate around whether to take the ‘carrot’ approach by motivating/ incentivising staff or to take the ‘stick’ approach by nudging them to get themselves inoculated,” said Atul Gupta, partner, Trilegal.
Though forced vaccination is not permitted under law, it is the company’s choice to decide who they want to hire, said Prakash of Khaitan & Co.
“As far as recruitment is concerned, law only refers to acts of potential discrimination over recruitment, remuneration basis gender, defined disabilities and even religion,” he said. “Bearing in mind these aspects, other criteria for candidature may be determined accordingly including the requirement to be vaccinated against potential diseases as a prerequisite.”
Even companies who are facing a war for talent and cannot afford to make vaccination a prerequisite for hiring as that shrinks that their talent pool are taking the responsibility for inoculation of non-vaccinated folks if they are onboarded, said Anjali Raghuvanshi, Chief People Officer, Randstad India.
Abhishek Bansal - Co Founder and CEO, Shadowfax Technologies, said: “We have not made this (vaccination) as a mandatory criterion yet. Currently, there are no such checks on vaccination status at the time of hiring.” However, he said vaccine hesitancy is a problem with a lot of frontline employees. “We will continue our efforts in educating and encouraging people to get vaccinated.”
"We are closely monitoring the vaccination status, including the new recruits...In case a recruit has not been vaccinated we offer the same support as that given to our existing employees," said Naveen Nerlaje, Head- HR, Licious.
Some are offering unique incentives. Ecommerce major Amazon is giving Rs 1000 for each dose for pre-vaccinated individuals to encourage new hires in frontline teams.