Employers are being warned after the Biden administration announced that companies with 100 or more workers will be required to track employees who have received the COVID-19 vaccine and perform weekly tests for those who are not immune. For small and medium-sized businesses in particular, the directive can seem intimidating. I know many employers are still bouncing back from 2020 and have limited resources to implement and manage a new mandate, but the costs of non-compliance are high, with fines of up to $ 14,000 per violation. .
While details of government requirements are not yet known, businesses can immediately begin basic planning around record keeping, payment allocation and reporting to stay ahead of the game and keep their employees informed. .
Related: Companies Question Logistics and Cost of Biden Vaccination Plan
One of the strengths of any employer is the ability to use technology to track immunizations and schedule tests for employees who are unable to receive the vaccine. Additionally, consider how immunization records will be documented. Many employees will have electronic access to their immunization records either through the state or from the location where they received the immunizations. Walmart, for example, allows drugstore customers to receive electronic copies of their vaccinations using a QR code. Many pharmacies and providers also send vaccination records directly to an employee’s cell phone. Employers should work with employees to submit their immunization records, but also ensure that the systems they have in place meet compliance and safety guidelines.
Employers should be prepared for more complex record keeping, using an assigned channel approach. For example, you will need to know the number of employees who are fully vaccinated (two doses for Pfizer and Moderna; one dose for Johnson & Johnson) as well as those who need their second dose to comply. Tracking of employees who cannot receive vaccines or who have not yet been vaccinated will also be expected, so employers must decide how these records will be updated as immunization status changes. Finally, this lane-based system should have room to add boosters, in case they become a requirement.
Businesses should also determine payment options for testing. Unlike tests ordered by health care providers, COVID-19 tests required by the employer are not covered by the government. Doctors could charge $ 50 to $ 100 per test, according to the New York Times. The question of who is responsible for the payment is not straightforward. Insurers who can cover occasional employee testing cannot cover regular group testing. Employers must decide in advance who will cover the cost of the tests, whether that is paying the full cost, sharing the costs with an employee, or having the employee pay all of the payment.
With a solid plan in place for collecting immunization and testing records, along with strong record keeping, employers can prepare for federal reports. Many of the reported items will end up in the files you keep. However, for staff unfamiliar with regular federal reporting mandates, this time can serve as a primer for learning the requirements and schedule. Employers will follow a temporary emergency standard that will be issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor. The order will require proof of employee vaccination as well as weekly testing and results reporting for employees who cannot or have yet to receive the vaccine. Employers should consult the CDC website for additional information.
The government’s announcement of full immunization requirements and the upcoming availability of recalls will raise questions among employees. With employee recruitment and retention being ongoing challenges, this is an opportunity for employers to demonstrate that employee health, safety and peace of mind are top priorities. A comprehensive and proactive communication plan will ensure that employees are informed and engaged. Creating a comfortable space for questions, whether electronically or in a company-wide meeting, will help keep the flow of information and reassurance flowing.
Andrea Pickett is Vice President of Customer Success at Prescryptive, where she oversees all aspects of customer relationships and operations to ensure that every customer receives positive benefits from Prescryptive’s products and services. Prior to Prescryptive, Andrea spent over 20 years working with healthcare technology and pharmaceutical companies in a variety of leadership roles with clients including account management, product development, sales and marketing.