As we navigate the pandemic and vaccines become widely available for most, we hear this question time and again: can a family require their nanny to get the Covid vaccine?
This is a complex question, but an important one that needs answering. The short answer is yes, families can require their nanny to get the Covid vaccine in order to keep their job (or to be considered for a position). Washington is an at-will employment state, so a family can terminate an arrangement if their current nanny is not interested in getting the vaccine. Likewise, any nanny can leave a position if the family’s Covid views are not in alignment with their own.
The CDC weighed in on this subject and clarified that state laws are the deciding factor when it comes to employers requiring the vaccine (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/toolkits/essential-workers.html) The Washington State Department of Health holds that employers can require the vaccine and ask for proof, as long as no medical records are involved (https://www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/1600/coronavirus/120-053-FAQStepsCriticalWorkersVaccination.pdf).
Generally, it is a best practice for employers to encourage their workers to get the vaccine voluntarily, as the domestic employer network Hand In Hand suggests. They created a document (HIH_Vaccine-FAQs-for-Domestic-Employers.pdf) for helping employers to navigate these issues, and they recommend an honest and compassionate conversation between employee and employer to understand any hesitation or concerns. Their resources encourage parties to consider medical restrictions, disabilities, and racial equity concerns, and to have open and respectful dialogues.
At the end of the day, the ideal nanny arrangements are all about the right fit. For many, the right fit means a strong value alignment when it comes to public health and safety concerns. These concerns can suddenly be at the forefront of discussions, especially if you have been working together for a long time before Covid was even an issue. That makes the decision more difficult and emotional, but one should never assume anything when it comes to an individual’s personal attitudes about such an unprecedented situation.
Our personal choices have far-reaching consequences during a pandemic, and it is critical that we be open-minded, compassionate, and honest about what we need to feel comfortable in professional settings. Either a nanny or family can make the choice that is right for them for any reason, and the intimate setting of in-home childcare only adds to the urgency of making that right choice.