“We will protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated colleagues,” the president said Thursday.
In one of the biggest efforts yet to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, President Biden on Thursday unveiled new vaccination requirements that are expected to have major repercussions for employers.
Biden announced that he is directing the Department of Labor to draft a rule that will require all companies with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or have weekly COVID tests. Companies that break the rule could face fines of $ 14,000 per violation, an administration official told CNN. The regulation, which is expected to be unveiled in full later this week by DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, will affect about 100 million Americans.
The new measure will require employers to provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated.
“We are going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated colleagues,” Biden said at a news event Thursday releasing the news.
The fact that the requirements apply across the board will give many employers the coverage they were looking for before the mandates rolled out, said Devjani Mishra, shareholder of Littler Mendelson and head of the COVID-19 task force of the business.
“Throughout 2021, we’ve seen employers think very seriously about whether to require workplace vaccinations, what ramifications it might have for their workplaces and whether they stand to lose employees, ”she says. “The administration’s approach will help level the playing field and relieve employers who fear moving too fast or too soon in this important area.
The move was part of Biden’s broad vaccination mandate plan revealed Thursday night, as the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc and build support for vaccine mandates. Biden also announced that all federal employees and contractors must take the hit.
The decrees represent a stricter federal approach to mandates: Starting in July, the federal government required its more than 2 million employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing, with the new measure removing the testing option . Additionally, Biden is expected to extend the requirement to employees of federal contractors, encompassing around 5 million additional people.
At a press conference earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said employees and contractors will have 75 days to comply with new orders. If they don’t, they will go through the “standard HR process” which may include advice and “disciplinary action”. She noted that there are “limited” possibilities for exemptions.
“If you want to work in the federal government or be a federal contractor,” Psaki said, “you have to be vaccinated.”
Lorrie Lykins, vice president of research at the Institute for Corporate Productivity, said that, so far, the federal government’s strategy of allowing employees to opt out of vaccination in favor of testing, as well as the ability to self-report their immunization status, had not been able to “guarantee safety”. With this new, stricter approach, she says, the Biden administration is closer to that goal – and the change “will also give employers more confidence to demand vaccination as a condition of employment.”
Steve Bell, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney in his labor and employment practice, called Thursday’s decision a “real game changer for many employers,” predicting that the number of private employers who Imposing vaccines is about to “increase exponentially”. even before the news of the DOL was announced.
Related: Can Employees’ Religious Beliefs Get Them Out of Vaccination Mandates?
“The fact that the largest employer in the United States is imposing vaccines will reassure private employers who have been reluctant to demand vaccines,” Bell said. “It can also set the standard for what a reasonable employer should face in this continuing epidemic.”
Vaccination mandates intensified throughout the summer, especially after the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine and in light of lingering concerns about the more contagious Delta variant. Tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft made injections mandatory in July, but the trend isn’t confined to the tech industry: McDonald’s Walmart, United Airlines and many more recently joined the ranks of companies requiring their employees to be vaccinated.
Related: These Employers Demand COVID-19 Vaccines
Both employees and employers are also increasingly in favor of mandates. A recent Qualtrics survey found that 60% of employees support vaccine requirements for in-person work, while a study released this week by Mercer found that nearly 65% of employees surveyed would prefer their employer to put in place a vaccination mandate.
On the employer side, Willis Towers Watson reports that 52% of employers have a mandate in place or will be by the end of the year – a statistic that was released before Biden’s recent executive orders.
“The Biden administration’s requirement that all federal workers be vaccinated will help standardize immunization and make it easier for employers to move forward with immunization mandates,” said Dr. Jeff Levin- Scherz, Head of Population Health at Willis Towers Watson.
Levin-Scherz notes that many employers have taken significant steps to encourage employees to get vaccinated, offering flexible hours and paid time off to get the flu shot, extra time off if employees experience side effects, and even clinics. vaccination on site. But, about a third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 are still not vaccinated.
“Unvaccinated employees represent both a clinical risk and a business risk for businesses,” he says, noting that employers who have not yet mandated vaccines should weigh the potential risks associated with unvaccinated employees. vaccines work in person, including the potential to expose other employees to COVID, especially those who are immunocompromised, and the business disruptions associated with quarantines.
“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic,” adds Lykins. “Without it, mutations like the terribly virulent Delta strain will continue to emerge.”
Jen Colletta is editor-in-chief of EDH. She graduated from La Salle University in Philadelphia with a BA and MA in writing and spent 10 years as a journalist and editor before joining EDH. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.