President Joe Biden announced vaccine mandates that may affect as many as 100 million workers. While we wait for the Department of Labor and Department of Health and Human Services to develop the formal rules, here’s what the President has asked for:
- Require employers with more than 100 employees to ensure workers get vaccinated or tested weekly
- Require employers to grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated or tested
- Require federal workers and government contractors to be fully vaccinated
- Require most healthcare workers in facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement to be vaccinated. This includes hospitals, care centers, surgical centers, and home health workers.
Once the formal rules are published, there will be a period between 50 and 90 days for compliance. After that, companies will either need to terminate unvaccinated workers or face significant fines.
Preparing for the Vaccine Mandate
The rules are expected to be announced soon, so businesses should start preparing now to be ready when the vaccine mandate launches.
Establishing Clear Policies
To prepare for the vaccine mandate, your first step is to have clear and established policies for those that are not vaccinated. While employees are required to get vaccinated or get tested weekly, there’s no guidance yet on what tracking or documentation is required. To drive the adoption of vaccinations, the government is putting the burden on employers, however.
Dealing with Exceptions
There are exceptions to the rules, such as religious objections, disability, and some limited health conditions. Your policies should address how to ask for an exception. You will want to check with your attorney to determine the proper course of action. Because of HIPAA regulations and religious freedom rights, you’ll want to make sure you handle these requests properly.
Managing Paid Time for Vaccines
The vaccine mandate requires affected companies to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinations. This may cause scheduling or staffing problems if not managed properly.
Some employers are considering hosting vaccine events in the workplace or providing on-site testing to limit employee time away from the job.
Dealing with Employee Refusal
Failure to comply with guidelines can result in a proposed fine of $14,000 per violation. This can add up quickly. In a business with 100 employees, if 10% fail to abide by the mandate for a month, fines could total more than half a million dollars. For companies doing business with the government, agencies also have the authority to terminate agreements for noncompliance.
Because of the potentially severe fines, most employers will have no choice but to terminate workers that do not comply with the regulations.
Government agencies are developing the guidelines for implementation of the vaccine mandate and are expected to be announced in October. There may also be legal challenges to the mandates, especially from states that have passed legislation to ban such mandates, including Texas, Florida, and Montana.
These should be considered general guidelines and not considered as legal advice. Businesses should check with their legal counsel to make sure they are fully compliant with any and all requirements.
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