The Vaccine Mandate: What Employers Need to Know
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Amy Cooley, HR Administrator
November 4, 2021
Update (November 17, 2021): As anticipated, several petitions were filed almost immediately after OSHA’s emergency temporary standard came into effect, prompting the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to issue a temporary stay of enforcement on November 6. On November 12, the Court extended the stay while they review the rule. OSHA is prevented from taking steps to enact or enforce the mandate until the Court issues further orders.
Since President Biden’s September announcement of executive orders related to the Covid-19 response, particularly vaccine mandates, employers have been anxiously awaiting the rules that will govern this policy. While deadlines and rules have already been issued for federal employees and contractors, the first two rules for healthcare and private employers were published on November 4, 2021. Here is a summary of what is new, and how the mandates could affect you as an Employer.
First, what exactly is the ‘Vaccine Mandate?’
The vaccine mandate is an executive order that states certain employers (federal contractors and large employers) must require their employees to either be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or to be tested for the virus on a weekly basis. Employers included in the order who do not comply may face fines of up to $13,685 per occurrence and significantly more for knowingly violating the order.
Are any employers exempted from this order?
As of the date of this posting, this order applies only to businesses who are federal government contractors, healthcare providers, or private businesses with 100 or more employees. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees, who do not contract business with the federal government and are not engaged in healthcare, are not currently affected by the order.
What are the rules for federal employees and contractors?
Federal employees are required to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, and the deadline for Federal contractors is January 4, 2022. There is not a testing option available.
What did we learn in the new OSHA rule published today?
The rule issued by OSHA today provides further clarity regarding the Employer’s responsibilities and the deadline for action. That deadline is set for January 4, 2022, meaning affected employers must ensure their employees are either fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by that date, or that employees test negative for Covid-19 on a weekly basis.
Employers are also responsible for providing paid time off to cover the time it takes to get vaccinated, as well as sick leave for recovery from any related symptoms.
Employers are not responsible for paying for time or the test itself for those employees who choose the weekly testing option. Additionally, all unvaccinated workers must wear face masks while at work, regardless of a negative test.
What did we learn in the new healthcare rule today?
This rule came from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and states the same January 4, 2022, deadline for all health care workers (in organizations that receive funds from Medicare and/or Medicaid). Like federal workers, health care workers will not have a testing option.
It is important to note the situation remains fluid, with anticipated legal challenges as well as potential new rules and clarifications. We’ll be updating this post as events unfold, so bookmark it to keep up with the latest.
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