September 14th, 2021

What the Vaccination Requirements Mean for Your Business

This post was last updated Monday, October 4th, 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 new action plan. The new vaccination requirements come amid the latest surge of COVID-19 and the uptick in hospitalizations due to the delta variant. To keep you informed of what’s going on and how to prepare for employer vaccination requirements, we’ve outlined the most important details below. 

The first item on the plan is meant to address the roughly 80 million Americans who are still unvaccinated. But the full action plan covers six main components: 

  1. Vaccinating the Unvaccinated
  2. Furthering Protection for the Vaccinated 
  3. Keeping Schools Safely Open 
  4. Increasing Testing and Requiring Masking
  5. Protecting Our Economic Recovery 
  6. Improving Care for Those with COVID-19

Requirements Affecting Businesses

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 or per employee that doesn’t have a vaccination on file. The details around the timing and penalties continue to evolve, but government workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22nd, and federal contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8th, 2021. More specifics around the requirements: 

  • Private and public sector employers with 100+ employees are required to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly; However, there isn’t a specific deadline for employers outside of federal contractors to adhere to this rule just yet. Businesses 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. 
  • 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. However, there are exemptions for those with disabilities and those who refuse based on religious grounds. You can find more guidance from the EEOC here. Employees will have about 75 days to get fully vaccinated from the time the executive order is signed. 
  • Vaccinations will also be required for all healthcare workers in settings that participate in Medicare or Medicaid services. 
  • Large entertainment venues are required to have patrons provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry.

These requirements may set the standard for employers looking to adhere to best practices amid the ongoing pandemic and for others who have been hesitant to require vaccinations. Since July, the share of job postings that require vaccination are up 90%. For employees concerned about the spread of the virus, this will likely be perceived positively and may serve as peace of mind. 

But the requirements can feel obligatory for those who remain unwilling or unsure about getting the vaccine. As a result, it is critical for employers to approach their COVID-19 vaccine policies and any requirements with empathy and understanding for their employees.

How to Communicate Your Vaccine Policy or Requirements 

Your vaccine policy and/or communications should prioritize the health and wellness of your workforce. Encourage vaccination and provide as much information as possible in an effort to address your employees’ questions and concerns. 

Encourage employees to get vaccinated 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 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

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. And since COVID-19, vaccination requirements, boosters, etc. continue to evolve — it’s best to have someone who will be a point of contact for the future. 

What Steps You Should Take 

  1. Track Compliance: Now more than ever it is important to track those who are vaccinated 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. The most important thing is that you have easily demonstrable compliance. 
  1. 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. 
  1. Make sure your COVID-19 vaccine policy is in effect and up to date. To learn more about how to craft a vaccine policy for your workplace, download our guide below. 

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. 

Download Our eGuide: Creating a COVID Vaccine Policy for Your Workplace

Review the best practices on assessing your business's needs and developing a workplace policy around the vaccine and steps for effectively implementing your policy.

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