More than a third (41 per cent) of U.S. employees believe unvaccinated workers should pay higher insurance rates, with generation Z the least supportive (23 per cent) and baby boomers the most supportive (45 per cent), according to a new survey by Eagle Hill Consulting.

The survey was published this week as federal regulators in the U.S. granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and as many employers announced delays to their plans for returning to the workplace due to a rise in delta variant cases.

It found 44 per cent of survey respondents said the rise of the latest variant is impacting their willingness to return to the workplace and half (50 per cent) said it’s increased their concerns about contracting the virus. Most employees said the variant means they’ll take extra precautions at work (61 per cent) and in their personal lives (64 per cent).

“A large portion of the workforce is worried about the delta variant and many employers are taking action,” said Melissa Jezior, president and chief executive officer at Eagle Hill Consulting. “They’re delaying going back to the workplace, announcing vaccine mandates and keeping health and safety protocols in place.

“The key for employers is to remain flexible and listen to employee views so they are best positioned to navigate through even more COVID-19 uncertainty. It’s even more important for employers to fully understand what employees want given the acute labour shortage. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, workers aren’t afraid to quit their jobs. Retaining talent means creating a culture and work environment — virtual or in-person — that is aligned with employee preferences.”

The survey found employees are split on actions employers should take before returning to in-person work. They’re evenly split (50 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively) on whether employers should mandate vaccines before workers return to the workplace. However, employees are slightly more supportive (58 per cent) of employers asking about worker vaccination status.

Read: Workplace well-being, mandatory vaccinations affecting Canadians’ mental health: survey

Survey respondents are also divided on whether employees should provide proof of vaccination, with 52 per cent supporting a documentation requirement. In addition, 60 per cent said they support employers offering incentives to vaccinated employees and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) support employers instituting precautions for unvaccinated employees.

While the majority of respondents favour incentives, they’re also increasingly supportive of punitive actions for unvaccinated workers. Two-thirds (63 per cent) said non-vaccinated employees shouldn’t be given special allowances to work from home, 51 per cent said they shouldn’t be allowed to travel for work, 44 per cent said this group shouldn’t be permitted to work in-person with customers and 40 per cent said they shouldn’t be allowed to work in-person with co-workers. However, 76 per cent of respondents said non-vaccinated employees should be able to stay with their employer.

And finally, the survey found broad support for workplace coronavirus testing and safety protocols. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents said employers should require or encourage social distancing, 73 per cent agreed they should require or encourage the use of masks, 67 per cent were in favour of employers requiring or encouraging temperature checks and 61 per cent support employers requiring or encouraging regular coronavirus testing for all employees.

Read: Vaccine policies gaining steam with small-, medium-sized employers