Over 500 employees at Vanguard have formed a group called “Vaccination by Choice Support Group,” made up of both vaccinated and unvaccinated members who are passionate about medical freedom and believe medical decisions should be a personal choice. This group provides an inclusive environment to share concerns and find support during these uncertain times. For many, they are concerned about job security and have spoken with HR and upper management about their concerns.
All crew members who share concerns and wish to join this group can do so by searching Yammer for the name of the group, and clicking on the link to join the private teams channel.
Thus far, Vanguard is not requiring the Covid jab as a condition of employment and is allowing for remote work to continue, but they have given no indication as to whether this will be their permanent stance or when that might change.
To date, the group has had a few meetings with HR to share their concerns about the vaccine requirement to return to campus, the ambiguity of the return to office plans for unvaccinated and those who chose not to report their status causing a feeling of no guarantee of future job security, natural immunity being completely ignored, testing not offered as an option for those that want to return to campus, and many believe it is not the role of employers to require vaccination as a term of employment.
In early 2021, Vanguard informed its employees that the Covid-19 jab would be a personal decision much like the flu jab, but in August that all changed, and they began requiring the jab for those returning to campus, while still not making it a condition of employment, thus far. Up until this date Vanguard has not accepted the submission of exemptions or accommodation requests because everyone was still working remotely. However, this could all change with their new “Returning to Office” plan on the horizon.
In an effort to get more specifics and share their concerns, the group recently reached out to upper management and were assured that their perspective has been part of the conversation and that they are aware of the group and just how large it is. That said, the group would like to continue these conversations as the return to office policies continue, and hope to meet with CEO Tim Buckley in accordance with Vanguard’s “Open Door Policy.”
Some large companies have already backed down from the vaccine mandates due to the recent court ordered OSHA mandate suspension on businesses with over 100 employees, and likely by the advice of their internal legal department. Companies such as Disney and Coles are putting a hold on requiring vaccination from their employees. Prior to this, an open letter was submitted to Coles Group Limited, packed with an incredible amount of important information regarding Covid and requesting Coles to respond to questions.
Vanguard appears to be following suit with other companies in regards to a January 2022 return to office plan by slowly bringing back groups of employees at a time, on specific dates. Thus far, they are remaining somewhat flexible with allowing remote workers to continue remotely, including those in locations that do not wish to deal with a local mask mandate, are allowing for medical and religious exemptions as they should, and other forms of being able to work remotely part-time or full-time. But where they lack, is the blurred line on their continued statements of “for the time being,” leaving many employees to feel insecure about their future employment. They are also requiring employees to submit a form stating whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated, which many feel also interferes with their constitutional rights.
The EEOC recently filed their first case, suing ISS Facility Services, Inc. for firing an employee after unlawfully denying her reasonable request to work from home to protect herself from Covid-19. She had a medical condition that she felt could be impaired if she were to get Covid, and requested to continue her work remotely.
Vanguard uses terminology such as “Future of Work Model” and “Next Normal” which boasts it’s own site that hosts resources, articles, and tips about returning to the office, in their emails to their employees.
Vanguard’s “Returning to The Office” Plan
They are bringing employees back to campus in a phased return beginning in January 2022. Nearly 5,000 crew members have already returned to campus as part of their “voluntary return program.” Emails were sent out to all employees with information letting them know the specifics and their “assigned return to office date,” which is based on their division, team, and building location.
“Crew members are expected to begin working in their assigned Future of Work model by their personalized return date unless they meet one of the exception criteria identified below.”
• If you are a parent with children under the age of 5, please speak directly with your leader if you have concerns about working in the office due to the unavailability of a vaccine for this age group. You will be able to continue working remotely. We will continue to reassess the situation and communicate any changes to this approach as conditions change.
• If you live with someone who is immunocompromised and have concerns with working in the office, you can request a temporary exception to your work model.
• Crew members who have an approved remote work accommodation for medical or religious reasons through Crew Relations will be allowed to continue working remotely for the time being. (Why did they put a “time being” cap on this?)
• Crew members who have not submitted proof of vaccination by their return to office date will continue to work remotely for the time being. (Again, they leave this open-ended.)
They state that most crew will begin working in the office three days a week and on Mondays and Fridays they will have the option to work remotely or in the office. They have also assigned seating for their employees.
They go on to state, “As we all adjust to a new normal, crew working from a U.S. office location will be required to submit proof of vaccination via a secure HR form prior to returning to the office.”
One area they seem to be a little flexible in is with masks. They state that employees should refer to the “Next Normal” site to find the most up-to-date masking guidance in their region. If there is a local mask mandate in their region, the employee will not be required to work from the office unless it is necessary for their role.
They also promote a “Voluntary Return Program”, informing their employees that they may voluntarily return to the office between now and the end of December before the “return to office” plan rolls out in January, and can choose to come to campus “once a week, once a month, or every day.”
Vanguard’s approach seems to be to toe the line, while being cautious about any legal ramifications. The “Vaccination by Choice Support Group” already consists of 529 employees to date, and is growing by the day. Whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, they have united in their belief in their constitutional rights and medical freedom.
Before Vanguard moves from a “time being” stance to a permanent stance, it might behoove CEO Tim Buckley to meet with this group and hear their concerns, especially considering the recent court order against OSHA’s Covid mandates that they “take no steps to implement or enforce it until further court order.” The appeals court ruled that there are “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with OSHA’s mandate.