President Biden released new vaccine guidelines that could have dramatic consequences for employers who do not follow the letter of the new laws. In a sweeping plan, with the help of OSHA to implement rules in the private sector, Biden’s team is aiming for vaccine mandates that would affect over 100 million workers.
Let’s look at a breakdown of some of the sectors that will be most affected by these new rules, as well as the penalties that employers could face as a result of noncompliance.
The workplace changes are part of a six-prong plan proposed by the White House in early September of this year. The points of action include:
- Vaccinating the Unvaccinated
- Further Protecting the Vaccinated
- Keeping Schools Safely Open
- Increasing Testing & Requiring Masking
- Protecting Our Economic Recovery
- Improving Care for those with COVID-19
The changes that will most affect employers are included in the very first point, “vaccinating the unvaccinated.” There are still around 75 million Americans who are eligible for the vaccine, but who choose not to receive it. Many of them are at work across the country, driving fears of increased infection, death, and economic damage. Biden’s plan targets that population as aggressively as possible, with the intention of stopping the spread of the disease.
Here are the measures, some proposed and some already decreed, that impact employers the most.
- Employers with over 100 employees to require vaccination or testing on at least a weekly basis
This is set to be implemented soon, though many remain confused about what it will mean for employers. Basically, an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) will be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for all businesses of that size. There will be fines levied against violators. This measure alone will impact 80 million US workers.
- Federal workers and contractors that work with the federal government must be vaccinated, with no option for testing
This is already in effect through Executive Order 140-42. Employees of the federal government will need to be fully vaccinated by November 22, 2021, and contractors who work with the federal government must be fully vaccinated by December 8.
- Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations for all health care workers at hospitals and health care centers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid
This will impact over 17 million health care workers across the nation.
- Large venues are requested to require vaccination proof or testing results for entry
- Paid time off required for employees to get vaccinated and to recover from it
As you can see, those affected will include contractors for federal jobs, school and hospital administrators, and business owners in the private sector. Any owners or groups found guilty of “willfully” violating the order will be subject to fines. And, as decided by a democrat-led reconciliation package that was recently released, there are a lot more fines than there were before- about ten times the original amount. This means that employers should be prepared to learn, and learn to comply with, the new rules when they are released in greater detail.