Currently, there is an understandable hesitancy and push-back among some employers, business owners, and state government officials, especially for those who are worried about employees leaving due to these new rules. These regulations as well as unexpected changes in the future are sure to have many HR professionals and business owners concerned.
What We Know About the New COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate
Many large organizations began requiring vaccinations early on in 2021 as the vaccine became available - among them were notable companies like Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Facebook and Disney. While these company’s leadership teams chose to implement mandates for their employees, many companies now will no longer necessarily have that choice. Many companies that had been waiting for the final rules to be made public are now expected to begin announcing mandates, experts say.
Here is what we know about the recently implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandate from the Biden administration:
New rules from OSHA require businesses of all kinds with 100 or more employees to mandate that their employees get fully vaccinated by January 4th, 2022.
If employees choose to not be vaccinated by this date, they must undergo weekly COVID testing. Health care workers must be vaccinated by Jan. 4th, 2022, with no option of testing. Unvaccinated workers must also wear face coverings while on the job.
Employers must pay workers for the time it takes to get vaccinated and provide sick leave for workers to recover from any side effects.
The new rule does not require employers to pay for or provide testing to workers who decline the vaccine.
Federal workers have until Nov. 22 to get the shots, with no testing option, while federal contractors have until Jan. 4.
Employers who violate the rule can face fines of up to $13,653 per violation for serious violations and 10 times that for willful or repeated violations.
There is no hiding the fact that we live in complicated times that often present us with unpredictable circumstances. Employees and employers have been faced with many difficult choices as we have continued to face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, looking ahead for many companies, the choice of enforcing a vaccine/testing mandate for their mid-to-large sized business may no longer be a choice necessarily for them to make.
How to Make COVID-19 Vaccinations More Accessible to Your Employees
As these new federal rules roll out and are implemented in businesses across the country, it is important to stay aware, as an employer, to make the process as easy as possible for your employees.
You can do this by having a clinic set up at your work that will allow employees to be vaccinated on-site at your business. This would be an employee-run temporary vaccination clinic. Another option is a mobile vaccination clinic being brought to your workplace with outside workers. If you aren’t able to provide this type of service for your employees, find out where they can get the vaccination locally and make that information easily attainable. List all area communication locations, pharmacies, and healthcare providers who are distributing vaccines.
On/Off Site Vaccination Clinics
There are a couple of factors to consider if you are trying to determine which is best—an in-office clinic set up or your employees going to another location, off-site—for vaccinations. The main factor to consider is the number of employees you have with regular schedules. If there aren’t that many employees or their schedules vary widely, it can be difficult to set up an on-site clinic or simply not worth the effort for so few to utilize. However, if you have a large number of employees, whose schedules are pretty set, having a week-long, on-site clinic can be an easy way to get most if not all of them vaccinated.
What Steps Should Small Business Employers Take?
You might be asking yourself how small businesses should respond to these regulations. Simply put, you can require your employees to be vaccinated if you so choose. So, to best approach this situation of uncertainty, it is a good idea to do the following:
Develop a Mandate Policy: If you are a smaller company of fewer than 100 employees, right now, you are not required to demand your employees be vaccinated. However, you can still have that as a personal preference for your company as the owner. The first step in approaching this situation is to determine if you want to have a vaccination mandate and if so, what it should look like. You also need to consider any potential repercussions that will exist if mandates are not followed.
Communicate Mandate Details to Your Employees: Once you have established a company mandate or policy for vaccinations, share this information with all your employees as soon as possible. Also, layout in crystal clear terms what will happen if an employee doesn’t get the vaccination who is required to do so, or what constitutes a reason for an exemption to the rule.
Communicating mandates and regulations to employees at your organization is a good idea for small and large businesses alike. If you are a business with more than 100 employees, consider meeting with your leadership to determine an internal communication plan as soon as possible. Your HR management team will be an integral part of this step, so make sure that they are at the forefront of this conversation, and be sure to include any third-party HR advisors or consultants as well.
The lasting effects of the pandemic have created a changeable work environment, unlike anything we have experienced in the past. It is important to comply with government mandates as well as consider and discuss with your leadership the best options for your business and organization going forward. The effects of the pandemic have presented specific challenges to HR professionals as they navigate changing rules and regulations. If your business is looking for a trusted HR partner to provide expert and non-biased guidance and resources for your business, contact our team of professionals at TPC today to start a conversation.