A federal court has lifted a stay on the Biden administration’s rule that forces business owners with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.
We previously discussed best practices for communicating your company’s vaccination plans to your employees. Now that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Biden administration’s mandate can proceed – at least for now – here are a few things your business should know.
The dispute is not over
While you should prepare for the mandate to take effect early in the new year, the fight will continue. As CNBC reported last week, businesses and 27 Republican-led states are asking the Supreme Court to block the mandate. Industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business are among the organizations that oppose the measure.
Clearly, the mandate is a politicized issue. As leaders, it’s important to recognize that whether you agree or disagree with the mandate, your thoughts, words and actions matter to your employees and customers. It’s crucial to communicate with your various audiences about your vaccination policies. Remember to keep an open mind and listen to differing viewpoints.
What’s the deadline to implement a plan?
Originally, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) suggested companies must have a vaccination policy in place by Dec. 6 and begin implementing it by Jan. 4, 2022. According to news reports, the Labor Department has pushed back vaccination and testing requirement deadlines to Feb. 9, but companies are expected to be making good-faith efforts to implement the rules, such as mask mandates for unvaccinated employees. Otherwise, fines can start as early as Jan. 10.
What should we be doing now?
While most businesses have been working on their procedures, for those who haven’t completed them, they can continue to gather information about their employees’ vaccination plans. Keeping HIPAA and ADA compliance issues in mind, texting your workforce can be an efficient way to do this.
There are two-way communications tools available to help send updates and messaging to the Frontline via text. In return, these tools have the capability to collect and store information, including vaccination status and records as well as COVID-19 testing status for those who opt-out of getting vaccinated.
Your business also will want to refer to OSHA’s guidance on recordkeeping and other requirements to ensure your business continues to make progress toward the Feb. 9 deadline mentioned above.
While the legal battle will likely continue, employers must have a plan in place as well as a plan for communicating company-wide policies in an effective way.