Be Prepared to Comply with the President’s Workplace Vaccine Mandate

President Biden announced Thursday that the Department of Labor will mandate that businesses with 100+ workers must require their employees to either get a COVID-19 vaccine or adhere to weekly COVID-19 PCR testing. 

Regardless of how you feel about the COVID-19 vaccination or DoL mandate, your employees who have not yet been vaccinated probably don’t want to be vaccinated. And as a leader of your firm, you need to walk a fine line between respecting the preferences of employees and maintaining the health and safety of your company and the greater community.

If you are more than 100 employees, now is a great time to start setting protocols so that you are prepared to be compliant with the rollout of DoL’s updated OSHA standards.

Here are 5 steps that I recommend taking as you set your internal strategy:

Designate a point-person to organize vaccination verifications and weekly testing results. Many companies have a Return to Office (RTO) Committee or similar. With our customers, I typically see HR, Workplace, and Admin leads managing this process.

Pick a (systems) source of truth. You need at least one security system to store vaccination status or the weekly test results. Good candidates: HRIS (e.g. BambooHR, Workday), your SSO provider (Okta, AzureAD, OneLogin), and your benefits provider (Sequoia, Rippling).

Develop a privacy-aware protocol for checking vaccinations and administering weekly testing.

    • Check vaccination status: I’ve seen some companies organize Zoom calls with breakout rooms, where attendees are admitted one by one, to flash their vaccination cards. This way, the vaccination card does not need to be stored. Make sure to provide multiple times that are friendly across the time zones your employees tend to work and make it clear that employees’ vaccination status will not be shared beyond a “Need to Know” basis.
      Remember–you may ask if the employee is vaccinated or not and their date of vaccination. This would not violate HIPAA, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You should NOT ask the reason they chose to not be vaccinated. This may violate other federal laws around anti-discrimination. If you’re not sure, ask your legal team.
    • Weekly testing: Many apps will help you handle weekly testing for your unvaccinated employees, including Radish Health, one of OfficeTogether’s partners, as well as Carbon Health, Circle, and OneMedical. In the UK and many other countries, it is illegal to ask for vaccination status, so employers have no choice but to do weekly testing. Have your legal team double-check that your policies are geographically appropriate.

Send out clear employee communications. It can be helpful to reference articles about the President’s upcoming mandate, to create some ethos. Employees might be more sympathetic if they know this isn’t “top-down” enforcement within the company but rather a nationally mandated effort. Here are example articles from NPR, NYT, and CNN.

Don’t be afraid to iterate. Your first protocol might be shaky so it’s a great opportunity to listen to employee feedback, build trust, and adapt the policy to meet employee (and employer) needs.

Amy YinBe Prepared to Comply with the President’s Workplace Vaccine Mandate

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