Biden’s Vaccine Mandate: What Employers Need to Know

Here’s how to understand the basics of Biden’s new employer vaccine mandate — plus how to best prepare for it.

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Covid-19 Vaccination. Asian Male Patient Getting Vaccinated Against Coronavirus Receiving Covid Vaccine Intramuscular Injection During Doctor's Appointment In Hospital. Corona Virus Immunization
Employers with more than 100 workers must require their staff to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly

Update January 13, 2022:

On Jan. 13, 2022, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration mandate that required workers at companies with 100 or more employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or start weekly testing of workers.

Despite the ruling, President Joe Biden called on states and employers to enforce vaccination requirements voluntarily to protect their workers, customers, and the communities.

In a separate ruling, the court allowed a mandate requiring healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated.


Original post October 5, 2021:

The COVID-19 vaccine is a controversial subject these days, with people discussing it everywhere — from social media and school board meetings, to corporate offices and the White House. With a global pandemic that has turned into political warfare, tensions are high while public health and safety hang in the balance. Corporate America has found itself in the middle of the turmoil, trying to decipher its role in keeping its employees safe while also meeting production demands.

Meatpacking plants, for example, were early hotbeds for COVID transmission — leading to widespread sickness, deaths, quarantines, and meat shortages across the country. Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat producers in America, announced that all workers would be required to be vaccinated by November 1, going so far as to incentivize staff with a $10,000 lottery for getting the poke. Airlines, another essential and vulnerable industry, are ready to fire workers for refusing the vaccine. United Airlines publicly stated that they plan to fire nearly 600 workers for nixing the shot.

While many corporations have put vaccine mandates in place voluntarily, others worry about keeping workers on board, given the already tight labor market. It seems, however, that any worry about company policies was superfluous as the White House recently decided to take matters into their own hands. In early September, President Joe Biden announced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate that would apply to many large businesses in the United States.

This guide will help employers understand the basics of the mandate and how to get ready to implement it.

Current status of the rule

While the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered to halt Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements on Nov. 6, 2021, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay on the rule on Dec. 17. However, the U.S. Supreme Court could decide to block it again.

OSHA won’t enforce any requirements under its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) until Jan. 10. The agency also said that it “will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before Feb. 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good-faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

Which workers does the mandate include?

The Delta — and now Omicron — variant are proving to be the straws that broke the camel’s back in terms of global pandemic recovery. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimates that between 70-80% of the population must receive a vaccination to reach “herd immunity.” Yet as of late September, just 55% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated.

In an effort to improve vaccination rates and lower hospitalizations and deaths, President Biden’s vaccine mandate will require 100 million Americans to get a vaccine against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. The entities that fall under the mandate’s specifications include:

  • Federal government workers and contractors
  • Healthcare workers/facilities that receive Medicare funding
  • Workers at businesses with 100 or more employees

At this time, small businesses, schools, retail workers, and childcare centers are not required to mandate vaccines for their workers though some are still offering incentives.

What do businesses need to know?

Companies that fall within Biden’s new mandate parameters will need to follow the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new rules to mandate vaccinations or subject employees to weekly testing.

There will be limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons, but federal workers who do not comply could face disciplinary action. The U.S. Labor Department will also require employers to give their workers paid time off to get a vaccine. If businesses fail to do so, they may face fines upwards of $14,000 per violation.

Companies that fall within Biden’s new mandate parameters will need to follow the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new rules to mandate vaccinations or subject employees to weekly testing.

How should businesses prepare?

Given that the nitty-gritty details of the mandate are still up in the air and legal experts expect lawsuits to come in the near future, business owners have time to prepare for the mandate to take effect.

Communicate with employees about the impending mandate through corporate emails, intranet, and in person.

Some of the steps business owners can take now include:

  • Communicate with employees about the impending mandate through corporate emails, intranet, and in person
  • Firmly and clearly lay out what the order requires and when the requirement starts (as more information becomes available)
  • Remain transparent about the repercussions for workers that do not comply with the federal mandate
  • Make vaccines accessible for all workers by speaking with local public health authorities to provide vaccinations in the workplace for unvaccinated workers
  • Continue to encourage cleaning protocols, air ventilation, mask wearing, and physical distancing when possible

Currently, due to the Delta variant, the CDC has updated its guidance to recommend that even fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings.

Looking ahead

While many business leaders, politicians, and employees remain divided on the benefits of Biden’s vaccine mandate, it appears to be moving full steam ahead, albeit with foggy stopping points. In one of the tightest labor markets in modern history and political tension you could cut with a knife, many employers fear that they will lose workers if they require them to receive a vaccination. Those fears may come true when Biden’s vaccine mandate goes into effect in the coming weeks.

This mandate will affect roughly 100 million Americans and cost businesses that fail to comply with tens of thousands of dollars per violation. Preparing now can save a lot of headaches later.

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