November 4th, 2021

Vaccine Mandate Update

Last updated: December, 20th, 2021

On Thursday, September 9th, President Joe Biden announced stricter vaccination requirements for federal workers, large employers, and health care staff, as part of his action plan. The new vaccination requirements come amid the latest surge of COVID-19—and now the highly-transmissible Omicron varient. 

On Friday, December 17th, the court ruled that the government can enforce its vaccine or testing mandate for companies with more than 100 employees. Additional appeals to this ruling have already been filed, leaving many confused and unsure of how to comply. 

Get a full update on the vaccine mandate in our webinar on January 26th. We’ll cover this topic in-depth and have a live Q&A to make sure you’re prepared. Register herevaccine mandate webinar

Requirements will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) through their Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). If businesses aren’t in compliance they face substantial fines up to nearly $14,000 per violation. 

The Most Recent Requirements Affecting Businesses

The deadline for government workers to be fully vaccinated was Nov. 22nd, 2021. Based on the latest ruling and confusion regarding the mandate, OSHA posted new compliance dates. Covered employers must comply with the provisions by January 10, 2022. If an employer allows testing in place of vaccination, then testing of unvaccinated employees must begin on or before February 9, 2022.

Private and public sector employers with 100+ employees must ensure their workers are fully vaccinated or tested weekly by Feb. 9th. Companies with 100+ employees in a high-risk workplace (i.e. in healthcare, healthcare adjacent) or that don’t currently have a compliance program in place are going to be the most at risk for penalties.

Due to the confusion regarding the rollout of this ruling, OSHA will not issue citations before the deadlines noted above as long as companies show a good-faith effort to comply.

The most updated requirements under the ETS shared by OSHA and the White House were announced on Nov. 4th and include the following:

  • Employers must ensure that their employees have received either two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • All unvaccinated workers must wear masks starting and provide a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis.
  • The OSHA rule will also require employers of 100+ workers to provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated.

Questions You May Have

Do employers have to pay for or provide COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees who have to undergo weekly testing?  

Under the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) guidelines, employers are not required to provide or pay for tests for their employees. However, employers may be required to pay for testing because of other laws or collective bargaining agreements (i.e. those required by state or local laws or in labor union contracts.)

Do employers have to provide time off for employees to get vaccinated? 

Yes. All covered employers under the mandate are required to provide paid time for their employees to get vaccinated and, if needed, sick leave to recover from side effects experienced that keep them from working.

How does this mandate impact businesses with less than 100 employees? 

The requirements for federal contractors and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) apply to employers of any size. Further, larger companies may extend requirements to third-party contractors or vendors. So businesses with less than 100 employees who do business with larger organizations could be impacted. OSHA is also considering extending the mandate to employers with less than 100 employees. 

Does the mandate apply to remote workers?

No — fully remote employees or employees who perform work exclusively outdoors are exempt from this mandate. However, if they spend any time at a worksite (i.e. are hybrid workers) the rules will apply. Additionally, remote workers count towards a businesses’ total headcount. So if a company has remote workers that put total their number of employees to 100 or more, they will have to comply with the mandate.

What employees are exempt from these requirements?

There are exemptions for those with disabilities and those who refuse based on religious grounds. You can find more guidance from the EEOC here. 

We’ll be covering additional questions you may have regarding requirements, exemptions, and other details in our upcoming webinar on Jan. 26th. Register here.  

Requirements Previously Shared

Federal workers and contractors that do business with the federal government are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — with no option to opt-out with regular testing. Vaccinations are also required by all workers at health care facilities receiving either Medicare or Medicaid funding. Large entertainment venues are required to have patrons provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

What Steps You Should Take 

  1. Encourage employees to get vaccinations or boosters and to follow preventative protocols. Provide time off with pay for vaccination appointments — whether your employees are required to get the vaccination or not. All of these things can ensure the success of your vaccine policy and encourage more employees to participate:
  • If you can, make the vaccine and boosters available at work for free
  • Pay for any time off needed to get vaccinated
  • Offer a small bonus for employees that get vaccinated or go through the exemption process
  1. Track compliance: Now more than ever it is important to track those who are vaccinated and have received a booster if any requirements apply to your business. If your organization’s employees are required to get the vaccine, have a process in place for tracking who is compliant and who isn’t, and follow up with individual employees as needed. 
  2. Update your employees: Because this is in the media, you’re likely to get questions from employees. Use this time to send out another communication on where your employees can go to read up on your vaccine policy. And inform them if your organization is one of those impacted by this action plan, you’ll want to outline the timing and requirements listed above. 
  3. Make sure your COVID-19 vaccine policy is in effect and up to date. Provide as much information on your vaccine policy as possible. It’s helpful if you can designate an HR or executive point person on this policy. They can educate employees with factual and trustworthy vaccine information, outline the reasoning behind the policy, answer any questions, and resolve any conflicts that vaccination may bring up. 

We’ll continue to keep you updated on how vaccination requirements progress and what your business can do to stay compliant and keep your workforce safe and healthy. 

Get a full update on vaccination requirements and the mandate in our webinar on January 26th. We’ll cover this topic in-depth and have a live Q&A to make sure you’re prepared. Register herevaccine mandate webinar