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New COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates in the Workplace: What You Should Know

The White House issued the Path Out of the Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan on Sept 9th. The plan outlines a six-point approach to managing the ongoing pandemic. One of the most notable points involves vaccine mandates in the workplace.

Mandatory Vaccines

The plan details the following regarding mandatory vaccines:

  • The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). Moreover, the ETS requires all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or give employees the option to produce a negative COVID-19 test result on a weekly basis.
  • OSHA also requires eligible employers to provide employees with paid time off for vaccine appointments or to recover from vaccination.
  • An Executive Order to apply to government contractors. The order is still waiting on further guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Presumably, it will require employers working in connection with certain government contracts to be vaccinated. The option to opt for regular testing instead will not apply here.
  • The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement as a condition of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement.

Additionally, the plan states that the administration will increase the amount of COVID-19 testing through:

  • An increase in production of testing products
  • Offering at-home rapid COVID-19 tests at cost through certain retailers
  • Expanding free testing at retail pharmacy sites

It is still unclear how OSHA’s ETS will fit in with OSHA’s current COVID-19 Healthcare ETS. Similarly, the 27 states with current OSHA-approved State Plans will need to respond to the ETS once issued, and if certain provisions require implementation alongside the state’s standards and regulations.

The length of the ETS remains unknown. However, there is a possibility a permanent OSHA standard may eventually replace it.

Operational Considerations

Although it remains unclear when the new rules will take effect, covered employers are encouraged to start thinking about how they plan to navigate the many operational challenges that may come with vaccination and testing, including:

  • Workplace testing strategies vaccine mandates
  • Policy requirements
  • Vaccination tracking and management
  • Medical record collection and retention
  • Wage and hour implications
  • Bargaining obligations for unionized workplaces
  • Accommodations for religion, disability, and pregnancy
  • Employee Confidentiality and privacy issues

It is still unknown how the 100-employee rule will be counted. Or if employers will need to collect proof for these vaccine mandates. As the questions remain, employers should keep an eye out for any updates and prepare for any changes to come.

Is there anything Payroll Systems can help you with as you accommodate rapid legislation changes? Reach out and talk to us about the easy-to-scale solutions you need for your business.

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This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business. You can also contact Payroll Systems to inquire about our HR support services.