U.S. companies have combined response to order
Biden announces comprehensive new vaccination rules
In his haunted pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and contain the rising Delta variant. (the 9th of September)
U.S. companies are mixing up President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for companies with 100 or more employees, with many larger companies or their trade groups welcoming the policy, even if smaller companies abound.
Some companies say the contract adds another burden that could exacerbate historic labor shortages and supply chain bottlenecks.
Details like exactly how the plan will be carried out and who will bear the costs will likely remain unclear in the meantime until the occupational safety and health administration issues an “emergency standard” that implements the requirement, legal experts say.
The contract is expected to include approximately 80 million private sector workers and the vast majority of approximately 4 million federal employees.
On Thursday, Biden ordered companies with 100 or more employees to stop theand Workers are vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 at least weekly. A separate implementing regulation provides for vaccinations for federal employees in the executive branch and contractors.
Many large companies are taking the mandate with flying colors because they have already implemented their own vaccine guidelines or are heavily considering it, says Kathryn Bakich, head of the health compliance practice at Segal, a social benefits consultancy.
A handful of corporate giants like United Airlines, McDonald’s and Walt Disney put employee vaccination regulations on some or all of their employees in the spring. In turn, other large and medium-sized companies with similar policies followed or seriously considered them this summer.
“I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t talk about it,” says Bakich, whose customers are usually large companies.
“Business Roundtable welcomes the continued vigilance of the Biden administration in the fight against COVID,” the group, which represents the country’s leading companies, said in a statement. “In the past few weeks, many companies have decided to implement a vaccination mandate for some or all of their employees, a decision that we welcome.”
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Offer “some coverage” to employers
Many companies that have been reluctant to impose compulsory vaccinations that may be unpopular with some employees are likely to welcome Biden’s order, says Karla Grossenbacher, director of labor and employment at Seyfarth Shaw in Washington DC
“That will give employers some protection,” she says.
But large companies with hundreds or thousands of employees “will have an easier time complying with regulations because they have large HR departments to ensure employees are vaccinated or tested weekly,” said James Sullivan, co-chair of OSHA Workplace of the Cozen O’Connor law firm Security Practice.
“Many smaller employers are not equipped” to handle this logistics, he adds, and they have to pay for paid time off for employees to get vaccinated or to recover from vaccination, as Biden’s orders require .
“Small businesses face daily challenges from pandemic demands, the search for skilled workers, rampant inflation and supply chain disruptions,” said Kevin Kuhlman, vice president of government relations for the National Federation of Independent Business. “Additional mandates, enforcement and penalties will continue to threaten the fragile small business recovery.”
“I will lose 30% of my workforce”
Mehtab Bhogal, co-CEO of Forever Floral, which sells handmade, artificial bouquets of flowers online, says he doesn’t have the human resources department to deal with vaccinations or testing of his 130 employees.
“That eats up time and time is money,” he says, and reckons between 150 and 200 hours for his chief operating officer and production manager.
Bhogal says he is already struggling to attract and retain staff due to the labor shortage, and the mandate will add to those burdens. He notes that the company is based in Ogden, Utah, a conservative area that tends to treat federal mandates with caution.
“I assume I’ll lose 30% of my workforce,” he says. He says he can’t afford the weekly tests either and would likely only hire vaccinated job candidates.
“It feels like (the government) is forcing employers to do their dirty work to avoid liability,” added Bhogal. “That gives us a lot of unnecessary headaches.”
But MediCopy, a Nashville-based medical records company with about 200 employees nationwide, issued its own policy two weeks ago that reflects Biden’s plan, says CEO Elliott Noble-Holt.
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“We’re a healthcare provider and it’s important to us to lead by example,” he says. “Seeing the President talk about the mandates made my team proud. It confirmed that we put humanity first. “
Effects on labor shortages
The order could have mixed effects on the country’s labor shortage.
If a company determines its own vaccination requirements, employees who do not want to be vaccinated could migrate to a competitor. A state mandate could limit such sales as it is imposed on all companies with at least 100 employees.
“The government’s approach will help level the playing field and take some pressure off employers who are concerned about moving too quickly or too soon in this important area,” said Devjani Mishra, a leader of the COVID-19 task force at Littler Mendelson.
On the other hand, Biden’s plan could worsen the fluctuation problem if it induces employees from companies with more than 100 employees to move to smaller companies, says Grossenbacher.
Other details on how the mandate is to be achieved are meanwhile unclear, says Grossenbacher.
Do companies have to report vaccination and test results to OSHA, or do they just have to keep track of them and possibly face an audit?
Who bears the test costs – company or employee?
If a company fails to ensure its employees are vaccinated or tested, would they face greater legal liability if an employee is stuck?
It could, say Grossenbacher and Sullivan, although the OSHA regulation will likely make all of these issues clearer.
“There are many unanswered questions,” says Grossenbacher.