Director Marsh & McLennan says employer mandates will be rare

Dan Glaser, CEO of Marsh & McLennan, told CNBC on Thursday that he did not anticipate that employers would widely apply coronavirus vaccine mandates.

In an interview with the Squawk Box, Glaser said corporate America fully recognizes the importance of vaccines in fighting the pandemic. “Don’t get me wrong: CEOs want their employees vaccinated, but I think mandates will be very rare,” he said.

Still, Glaser, who has run a New York-based consulting firm and insurance broker since 2013, said Marsh & McLennan advises clients to “strongly encourage” vaccination against Covid-19. “We all want to go back to a more normal lifestyle … and that really requires vaccines,” he said.

The first Americans outside of clinical trials began vaccination against Covid-19 last week, and health workers and residents of long-term care facilities are given priority in the initial wave of available doses.

It will still take time for vaccines to be widely available to the general public, Glaser noted, which is an important part of the puzzle for companies as they consider policies. “It’s still a long way off, especially when you think on a global basis,” he said.

“In general, each term should actually be a government action as opposed to individual companies,” he added. “If we leave that to companies, there will be huge variability, and that nullifies the whole purpose of broad, broad vaccination.”

Earlier this week, Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Brian Niccol told CNBC that the company currently has no plans to require employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Social media giant Facebook reportedly won’t need vaccinations to get employees back to the office. Ford and General Motors have also said they will not issue vaccination mandates.

However, a survey by Yale University’s Institute for Executive Leadership suggests that there may be some will among some C-suites to set up vaccines against Covid-19. Just over 70% of CEOs surveyed at a recent summit said vaccines should be sought by companies at work, according to data shared for CNBC by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who led a virtual gathering of executives.

There is some question as to whether companies can currently approve vaccination against Covid-19, as the Food and Drug Administration has only issued emergency approvals, which are not the same as full approvals. That’s why the UAB health system in Alabama doesn’t require it, CEO Will Ferniany told CNBC on Dec. 17. However, if full approval is granted later and companies decide to enforce vaccination requests, legal experts told CNBC earlier this month, employees who refuse vaccination could be fired.

Glaser said that the question of the importance of widespread immunizations for the resumption of economic activity does not arise. “I’m just telling you a reality I don’t believe in from the companies we talk to that there is an appetite for vaccination mandates,” he said.