On September 9, President Biden announced several initiatives regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements for U.S. employers. One of these initiatives focuses on private sector businesses, expected to impact more than 80 million workers throughout the nation; that is the mandate that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure those workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. The other initiatives will have impact on federal facilities and healthcare facilities. An overview of the initiatives announced by President Biden last week:
Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Ensure their Workers are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.
OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees. No draft regulations have been released by OSHA, and there is not an indication of compliance dates at this time.
Requiring Vaccinations for all Federal Workers and for Millions of Contractors that Do Business with the Federal Government . Building on the President’s announcement in July to strengthen safety requirements for unvaccinated federal workers, the President has signed an Executive Order to take those actions a step further and require all federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated. The President also signed an Executive Order directing that this standard be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government. As part of this effort, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institute of Health will complete implementation of their previously announced vaccination requirements that cover 2.5 million people.
Separate from the Order regarding contractors, President Biden also signed an Executive Order requiring that all federal executive branch workers be vaccinated, with minimal exception
Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for Over 17 Million Health Care Workers at Medicare and Medicaid Participating Hospitals and Other Health Care Settings. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including but not limited to hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. This action builds on the vaccination requirement for nursing facilities recently announced by CMS, and will apply to nursing home staff as well as staff in hospitals and other CMS-regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing services under arrangements, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care. These requirements will apply to approximately 50,000 providers and cover a majority of health care workers across the country. Some facilities and states have begun to adopt hospital staff or health care sector vaccination mandates. This action will is aimed at creating a consistent standard across the country.
Facilities To Plan Response To Vaccine Mandates
Last week, a survey by Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory, broking and solutions company, found the number of U.S. employers requiring workers to get vaccinated is expected to surge over the next several months. The survey also found that more companies will be implementing financial incentives and expanding testing requirements as they update plans to reopen worksites. “The Delta variant has made employers take new actions to keep their workers — and workplaces — safe and healthy. We expect even more employers to institute vaccine mandates in the wake of FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., population health leader, Willis Towers Watson. “This is not an easy situation for employers to navigate. For instance, new policies such as tracking workers’ vaccinations can improve safety but also bring additional administrative requirements. At the same time, employers will continue efforts to encourage vaccination and communicate regularly with employees.”
Chelsea Smith, labor and employment attorney at the national law firm Hall Estill, works with employers to navigate issues related to vaccines and the workplace. Of the September 9, 2021 Executive Orders, she says: “Biden’s Order requiring federal workers to obtain the vaccine seems timely; after the FDA has authorized the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, I’ve seen private sector businesses moving to vaccine mandates. Six months ago, mandates seemed to be rare and employers “strongly encouraged” the vaccine. Should private employers choose to mandate the vaccine, they should seek legal advice and be sure to have a mandatory vaccine policy in place that provides for exemptions based on sincerely held religious beliefs under Title VII and qualified disabilities, as defined under the ADA.”