Digital vaccination cards and other technology designed to help workplaces welcome employees back to the office will undoubtedly be relied upon, but organizations run the risk of overstepping privacy, ethical, legal and compliance rules, according to a new Forrester Research report.
The research firm’s new report, “The Opportunity, The Unknowns, And the Risks Of Vaccination Passports In The Workplace” identifies several risks that organizations have to address if they are deploying vaccination passports, which the firm defines as a digital document that provides proof of an employee’s immunization status.
Those risks include mishandling sensitive personal data, discrimination, labor union mobilization, diminished cybersecurity and a negative impact on the customer experience.
“While COVID-19 is loosening its grip, it’s not going away,” said Enza Iannopollo, senior analyst at Forrester, in a statement. “Vaccine passports don’t offer the silver-bullet solution that many might hope for easing pandemic protocols and restrictions, and businesses should be planning for life with COVID in the medium to long term. Our overarching message to organizations everywhere is one of caution. With the right planning and consideration, the return to work will be smoother and more successful for all involved.”
According to Forrester, 30% of U.S. employees are ready to come back to the office, but asking them to carry proof of vaccination with the to enter the office presents some privacy and ethical issues.
The report also suggests that vaccines are not the only tool organizations have to ensure a healthy workplace, especially considering the difference in global vaccine strategies, variants and efficacy of the vaccine. Employers should continue flexible hybrid work arrangements while vaccination programs are still being rolled out.
Employers should also tread very carefully and collect only the minimum amount of data needed. Medical data should be encrypted and organizations should implement strict access, sharing and deletion policies to ensure fairness and protection, according to the report.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that employers can make the vaccine mandatory for employees, but some states are challenging that ruling, so employers should carefully consider those implications.
And although the U.S. and other countries are making good progress with the vaccine, organizations should keep distancing, sanitization and mask policies in place for the time being – especially for customer-facing interactions, the report says.