President Joe Biden’s administration is continuing its efforts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of the deadly coronavirus Delta variant. Recently, the White House ordered all federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, the government is imposing a comparable requirement on private employers. The move is estimated to impact over 80 million private-sector workers. So, the new Presidential vaccine mandate and private employers will have to come to terms.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been tasked with drafting an emergency temporary standard (ETS) and will announce more specifics in the coming weeks. Soon, employers with 100 or more employees will require to adjust their vaccine policies to comply with these new guidelines.
This article discusses this most current vaccination mandate, including its scope and how it may affect employers.
Keep in mind: This is a developing issue. Details will be updated here and in subsequent resources as more details are released.
Presidential Vaccine Mandate Guideline Overview
Soon, employers with 100 or more employees (measured companywide, not by location) will need to enforce one of the following:
- Require unvaccinated employees to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test weekly
- Require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19
This flexibility allows employers to choose how strictly they want to enforce a vaccine mandate. In other words, some employers might choose to make vaccination a condition of work; others may only need negative COVID-19 tests.
What’s Known About the Upcoming Rule
OSHA is tasked with drafting the updated guideline. As such, there will be few information offered prior to OSHA publishes a definitive ETS. On the other hand, the only essential information has originated from short government briefings.
Here’s what’s known about the upcoming guideline, remembering these particulars may change in time:
- The guideline will just apply to employers with 100 or more employees, measured companywide.
- Employers will have the ability to decide if they wish to embrace a rigorous, mandatory vaccination policy or enable testing as an alternative.
- Employers need to offer paid leave to receive and recover from vaccinations.
- Remote employees not working in contact with others will be exempt from the ETS (unless they come into the work environment).
Again, all aspects of this upcoming rule are subject to modification as OSHA continues to work on the details. The above details are offered to help employers understand how the government is continuing in this area.
What’s Unknown About the Upcoming Rule
Much is still unknown about the upcoming vaccine requirement, and it will stay as such up until OSHA releases the ETS. Here are just a few of the concerns that stay to be addressed:
- When will the ETS start being enforced?
- What qualifies as proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test?
- Who must pay for weekly testing?
- What penalties will there be for noncompliance?
- Will the mandates apply to part-time workers?
- Will there be updated guidance on how employers should handle accommodations for employees seeking an exemption?
- Must paid leave be provided for employees COVID-19 testing, as it is for vaccinations?
As the list illustrates, currently there are many unknown elements. Employers will need to stay tuned for updates from OSHA as they come; however, that employers can do something about it in the meantime.
Expected Enforcement Timetable of the New Presidential Vaccine Mandate
The vaccination mandate will come in 2 main waves:
- An ETS with actionable steps and thorough information
- A permanent OSHA standard with all aspects fleshed out
OSHA will publish its ETS that will consist of important details and enforcement guidelines. This is expected to come in the weeks ahead; nevertheless, an actual release date is uncertain. Once issued, the ETS will take immediate effect in states where federal OSHA has jurisdiction. In states where the federal government does not have jurisdiction over workplace safety, state agencies will have to either adopt the ETS or establish their own ETS within 30 days that is “at least as effective.”
An ETS can only stay in effect for six months. After that time, it needs to be replaced by a permanent standard, which must undergo a formal rule-making process including a notice-and-comment period to allow stakeholders to submit feedback. This process follows the usual procedure for adopting a permanent standard except that a final ruling should be made within six months from that date OSHA publishes the ETS in the Federal Register.
In summation, employers can anticipate the ETS at some point within the year, however, its specifics might eventually change as the standard is finalized.
What Employers Can Do Now
While lots of details are still unidentified, the primary vaccination or testing requirement is definite. As such, employers can at least get ready for this aspect of the mandate. Here are some actions employers can consider when preparing for the upcoming requirement:
- Determine whether COVID-19 vaccination will be needed as a condition of work or if weekly negative testing will be an alternative.
- Consider how to manage accommodation requests for those looking for vaccination exemptions.
- Start planning an employee communication project to inform workers about vaccine policy changes.
- Think about the systems required to properly track employee vaccination statuses and confidentially protect the information.
- Plan for prospective staffing shortages or scheduling changes to manage employees time to get vaccinated.
- Consider whether partitions or spaced-out workstations will be made use of.
This list is nonexhaustive, as certain factors to consider will be distinct to individual employers.
Though the ETS will probably face several legal difficulties, employers must not rely on the guideline being totally overruled and need to start preparing to comply as soon as possible.
The specifics of this latest Presidential vaccine mandate are still being drafted, so its rules may seem like a distant concern; nevertheless, these requirements will work rapidly when they’re announced. When the time comes to guarantee compliance, employers will need to act swiftly. Taking proactive steps now can save employers from a scramble at the end of the year.
Reach out to TPG Payroll & HR Services to discuss how this new rule may impact your company; just call 909.466.7876 today! In the meantime, stay tuned for updates as this scenario develops. Also, learn more about Human Capital Management That’s More “Human” by visiting our Human Resources content.