As the dust settles over the announcement and initial strong reactions make way for earnest deliberation, how can companies deal with the requirements? Here is a roadmap for HR professionals to make sense of the journey.
About one month ago, President Joe Biden announced that private businesses with more than 100 employees are required to check COVID-19 vaccination status or allow access to regular COVID-19 testing.
The President also confirmed that federal employees, contractors, and the military must be vaccinated. This group does not have the alternative of regular testing.
The new regulations are aimed at companies with more than 100 employees. As a consequence, some industry sectors are affected more heavily than others.
According to the most recent data on businesses released by the United States Census Bureau, the following five industries will be most heavily affected by the mandate: management, utilities, information, finance and insurance, and administration and waste management services. Within those industries, more than 80% of the entire workforce is employed by companies with at least 100 employees.
Despite being called a “vaccine mandate”, the regulations stop short of requiring vaccines. Employees have the option to choose Covid-19 tests instead, provided they are tested at least once a week.
Altogether, approximately 80 million employees are included in the mandate, approximately two-thirds of the entire U.S. workforce. Industry sectors like construction and agriculture reside at the opposite end of the spectrum: here, a majority of businesses employ fewer than 100 people.
In addition, there is a geographic divide as the mandate covers the largest percentage of the working population in five states: Arizona, the District of Columbia, Florida, Nevada, and Tennessee. In those states, over 70% of the workforce is affected.
Complying with the Biden mandate is about making your business a safer place: safer for employees, customers, suppliers, and any other stakeholders your team encounters. The idea behind the mandate is that if all large companies pull together in this, American workplaces will be safer for everyone.
This is why the mandate not only covers office-based workers but everyone working for a larger company. The assumption is that if an employee works for a large business, they are more likely to come in contact with more people throughout their working week.
As a business with more than 100 employees, start by assessing your team’s movements. Who is office-based, and who is part of a mobile salesforce? Which contact points exist for each team member? For example, some sales teams will have a weekly in-person meeting where it would be feasible to offer Covid-19 testing if the employee opts out of vaccination.
Preparing a corporate vaccine policy is another excellent step. This helps employees understand the company’s thinking and policy regarding the mandate. Involving staff from different parts of the business will help incorporate a variety of viewpoints and requirements.
With information gathering and assessments completed, it is time to prepare for the implementation of the mandate. Granted, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to draft guidelines, which have not yet been published.
However, the President outlined the mandate in enough detail to allow HR professionals and managers to start preparing for several things. Employers need to put into place systems for vaccine recording and data storage, regular testing and keeping track of test results, and more.
Once OSHA publishes final guidelines, employers who prepared early will be able to hit the ground running with small adjustments. They will avoid disruption to their business practices and instead be able to comply smoothly and easily.
Scenario planning of this kind will also help identify any blind spots or issues that were not found earlier. The sooner your team understands those roadblocks, the easier it will be to address them.
Most businesses will need to approach the vaccine mandate with several different tactics. They will most likely include the following:
Especially if your business is operating across various locations, this can be tricky. Keeping track of information of this complexity reaches beyond what a spreadsheet can easily achieve.
Consider working with a partner that can not only supply the logistics of all the recordkeeping required but also provide vaccinations and testing. Outsourcing may seem like a big step but getting expert help for a complex task simply makes financial and logistical sense.
Whilst few companies will need to offer mass vaccinations at this stage, the experience gathered over the past months has allowed us to develop specific solutions for the issues businesses will soon be facing. This includes simple, app-based tracking of employees’ vaccination status, offering testing and recording of results, and more.
As a manager or an HR professional, you will have access to the data you need to keep your workforce safe in seconds.
Even though you may not have finalized your strategy, let your workforce know which options you are considering.
Employees will understand that a company’s plans may need to change. However, they will be more open to those changes if they feel that managers have been open and transparent throughout this process. Having more questions than answers at this early stage is normal and allowing employees to understand the process will help build credibility and trust.
The credibility your management team and your HR professionals build now internally can have long-term benefits when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.
If the past 18 months have taught businesses of all sizes one thing it is that we can never predict what happens next. Complying with the Biden mandate will be easier if you monitor your organization’s progress regularly. This will help you understand which tactics are working well and where adjustments are needed.
TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.