Employer’s Guide to the Biden Vaccine Mandate


An explanatory guide to upcoming DOL requirements, including what to do now.

Last month, President Joe Biden announced a series of plans to more aggressively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, including a startling announcement demanding that dozens of private employers force their workers to be vaccinated or suffer injuries. weekly COVID tests. The next rule will have far-reaching implications for employers. So what exactly does the rule entail and how should business leaders and HR managers prepare? Here is what you need to know.

What is that?

On September 9, Biden announced that he was directing the Department of Labor to draft a rule that will require all companies with 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or have weekly COVID tests. These employers will also need to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or recover from side effects of vaccination. Businesses that break the rule could face fines of $ 14,000 per violation.

When will the mandate come into effect?

The rule is expected to be published in the coming weeks by the Ministry of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, although no timetable has been announced. It is not known when this will take effect.

In the meantime, Biden is pushing employers to get ahead of his demands by imposing their own vaccine mandates.

What about employers with less than 100 employees?

They are currently not subject to the rules, but they can still impose the vaccines themselves. In fact, as more employer mandates come into effect, they will become standards, recently said Jillian Kornblatt, Labor and Employment Partner at Dorsey & Whitney, in a webinar hosted by the Minneapolis-based law firm. This could mean that employers who don’t put them in place will be seen as breaking “standard practice,” she said, adding, “I think this is an interesting area for these specific employers to watch out for.”

What do employers think?

American companies are largely in favor of the rule, because they take away the decision to make vaccines mandatory. Many business leaders wanted to prioritize health and safety and reduce the risk of COVID-19, but were hesitant to implement such mandates themselves, given the polarization surrounding vaccines and fears. to lose employees in a tight labor market. “The administration’s approach will help level the playing field and ease the pressure on employers who fear moving too fast or too soon in this important area,” said Devjani Mishra, Littler Mendelson shareholder and leader of the company’s COVID-19. intervention force.

A survey by the Conference Board’s Economic Development Committee (CED) finds that nearly two-thirds of business leaders support Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandate for private companies. Forty-two percent of those polled said they “strongly agree” with Biden’s tenure, while 24% “strongly disagree”.

In addition, employers were already adopting vaccination mandates, with a growing number of companies requiring some or all of their employees to roll up their sleeves. Employers including Tyson Foods, Disney, Walmart and United Airlines have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates even before Biden’s announcement.

Still, there is hesitation among some employers, especially those worried about employees leaving due to tenure. There are also concerns about how the rule will be applied. The DEC survey found that around 56% of business leaders will struggle to implement the vaccine or test requirement, for example.

Related: These employers demand COVID-19 vaccines

What should employers do while they wait for the rules?

As employers and employees wait for DOL rules, counsel for the Dorsey & Whitney webinar offered five action steps for employers as they consider and respond to upcoming regulations:

  • Write a policy on vaccines or tests;
  • Ensure vaccine requirements are in place and include potential exemptions for disabled / religious accommodation;
  • Determine if you are a federal government contractor or subcontractor;
  • Employers who are not currently covered by the new rules (those with fewer than 100 employees, non-government contractors, and non-health-related organizations) should consider what a potential vaccine policy would look like. ‘they were required to establish one; and
  • Anticipate changes to new requirements due to COVID-19 itself (Delta, Mu and other variants).

“With each wave [related to the changing COVID variants], we see efforts by the state or the federal government to regulate and demand something when it comes to employers, ”said Michael Droke, senior partner in the Labor and Employment group at Dorsey & Whitney who regularly advises employers on vaccine issues, during the webinar. “So the best strategy is to be very careful and try to anticipate what your business will do with each of these variations. “

How should employers communicate a mandate to employees?

A strong communication plan regarding immunization mandates is vital, experts say. “This is critically important,” says Brian Kropp, head of research in the HR practice at Gartner. “Vaccines have become so politicized, so one of the things that leaders and businesses need to do is be very, very careful how they communicate around whatever kind of vaccine mandate they put in place. “

There are a number of good practices that employers and human resources managers should follow when communicating with workers about company immunization policies, including informing employees as soon as possible, even if you are just planning to require vaccines; be clear about the reasoning behind a mandate; and outline the consequences of non-compliance with the mandate (with specific dates).

For a full list of communication strategies read: 9 Tips for Informing Workers About Your New Immunization Mandate

Kathryn Mayer is EDHBenefits Editor and Chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered performances for nearly a decade, and her stories have won numerous awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and accolades from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds a BA and MA from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.