On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced a new six-point action plan to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The action plan is comprehensive, so we’re focusing on employers and what you need to know right now, although more information is expected to come from OSHA soon. These orders will impact federal workers, employers of 100 or more workers, and some healthcare workers.
Large, Private Employer Vaccine Mandate Coming from OSHA
President Biden has directed the Department of Labor’s OSHA to issue a vaccine-related standard. The federal agency will publish an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring all private employers with 100 or more workers to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or implement weekly COVID-19 testing for all unvaccinated workers. Employers will also have to give employees paid time off to receive their vaccination or because of side effects experienced from a vaccination.
Employers that don’t comply with the standard may receive fines of up to $14,000 for each violation.
The timing of the ETS is unknown. There is speculation it will take less time than the last COVID-19 ETS, which took the agency six months to draft, publish, and take effect. Until it’s published and further details are provided, potentially impacted employers should consider the following:
- Who needs to be involved in making decisions on how to comply with a vaccine ETS? How will you communicate any changes to your employees?
- Have you reviewed your current vaccine-related and COVID-19 testing policies and procedures?
- How will you track testing and vaccination status among your employees? If it involves medical information, who will handle that private information? How will you keep it confidential?
- Do you have a budget set aside for testing employees?
- How will you provide paid time off for vaccination and any related side effects of the vaccination?
- Does your accommodation policy cover employee vaccine exemption requests based on religion and disability?
- Are your vaccination policies compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements?
- Have you secured reputable legal counsel?
Once the ETS is published in the Federal Register, the Secretary of Labor has six months from the date of publication to issue a permanent standard.
We’ll continue to monitor this issue and provide additional updates with more details when OSHA makes it available.
Vaccine Mandate for Federal Works and Federal Contractors
President Biden also signed an Executive Order to mandate vaccinations for all federal employees and federal contractors without an option for COVID-19 testing. These individuals have 75 days from the date the order was signed (September 9, 2021) to comply. There are exemptions for workers with disabilities and certain religious beliefs. If an exemption isn’t filed and a worker isn’t vaccinated by the compliance date, they will be terminated from employment.
Consistent with federal guidance, masks and social distancing requirements will still be enforced in federal buildings, on federal lands, military bases, and overseas locations.
Healthcare Staff Receiving Medicare or Medicaid Reimbursement Must Vaccinate
Healthcare workers in settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement must receive vaccinations. These settings include hospitals, dialysis centers, ambulatory surgery settings, and home health agencies.
This order builds on a previous requirement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for nursing facilities. It will impact nursing home workers, hospital staff, and include clinical staff, volunteers, residents, and individuals not directly involved in patient care.
We’re here for you. Our team works with you to develop a risk management plan based on your specific risk exposures and loss experience to meet your expectations. Contact FNIC to learn more about The White House’s Path out of the Pandemic action plan.