What HR Needs to Know About Vaccine Mandates for Companies

vaccine mandate

With the recent resurgence of COVID-19 and variants, company vaccine mandates are increasingly becoming a normal policy to help reduce liability and risk for employers and keep the workplace safe. And with the Biden administration recently releasing details on the COVID-19 vaccine mandate rule for employers, there is more clarity surrounding the issue. When this plan was initially announced in September, there was much confusion in terms of the details. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published an emergency temporary standard with more information.

This information can help identify what topics HR departments must understand before implementing a company vaccine mandate and the challenges that may arise with these vaccine mandates. This can ensure that employers communicate expectations and create processes that minimize confusion and ensure compliance.

Details of the Employer Vaccine Mandate Requirements

The current administration’s COVID-19 company vaccine mandate plan states that employers with more than one hundred employees must implement a vaccination requirement and offer a weekly testing alternative for those who refuse or are unable to receive a vaccine by January 4, 2022. Employees who are unvaccinated at that time must begin to provide verified negative test results to their employer every week. Additionally, unvaccinated employees must also begin wearing a mask at work starting on December 5, 2021.

The OSHA standard also includes a rule that beginning on December 5, employers must give employees paid time off to get vaccinated and sick leave to recover from any side effects or illnesses induced by the vaccine. While vaccine mandates have become a hot political issue, with heated opinions on both sides, many employers are embracing this mandate and feel that vaccine mandates are the only way to promote a healthy workplace in light of the ongoing pandemic.

The Importance of Policies

In order to comply with this directive, employers must be quick in setting up proper policies. Topics that should be covered include:

  • Ensuring vaccine requirements are in place that includes potential exemptions for disability and religious accommodations.
  • Determining if you are a federal contractor or subcontractor, as these entities are required to implement vaccine mandates regardless of size.
  • Identify ways that existing policies may need to change in light of the changing circumstances surrounding COVID and its variants.
  • Information about incentives if your company plans to move forward with incentivizing the vaccine.
  • Benefits and coverage surrounding vaccination and related illnesses.

A strong communication plan is also essential in a successful company vaccine mandate. Since this is a hot-button issue, employers must be cautious about how they communicate requirements with employees.

Other Issues to Consider

While employers with fewer than one hundred employees may be exempt from the current vaccine mandate requirement currently, it is good practice to consider implementing a company vaccine mandate anyway. It must be done by carefully considering both the benefits and potential drawbacks of these programs.  However, some industry and political leaders feel that these mandates may apply to smaller employers eventually, and implementing a plan now is a proactive way to stay ahead of the trend. Additionally, with many large employers adopting vaccine mandate plans, it may become the norm across all workplaces, leaving smaller employers at a disadvantage when it comes to talent attraction for candidates that may be reluctant to work in an environment with a greater potential risk of exposure.

Some states, such as California, Washington, Main, New York, and others, have also adopted additional COVID-19 vaccine mandates that frequently target groups of workers. For instance, they commonly apply to workers in specific industries, such as healthcare and childcare, or specific types of workers, such as state government employees, contractors, or subcontractors. State mandates also come into play for many employers, and again, this has provided more fuel for political polarization surrounding company vaccine mandates.

Other states, such as Texas and Montana, have moved in a different direction. The governor of Texas has issued an executive order that states that no entity can compel someone to get the vaccine. Montana has prohibited discrimination based on vaccination status and blocked requirements for having an immunity passport. Both of these laws would prohibit employers from refusing employment to someone who is unvaccinated.

The reality is that company vaccine mandates are highly contentious, and there are many issues that employers must consider before moving forward with a program. The best way to tackle this is by working closely with a legal team or skilled HR experts. To learn more about policies related to COVID-19 vaccine mandates in California, contact CA HR Services today.

CA HR Services specializes in working with small and medium-sized companies to help develop legal, efficient, and appropriate H.R. processes and procedures that meet state and federal labor law requirements.