After the nationwide shutdown of 2020, one of the major focuses of businesses in 2021 has been planning and following through with the return to the physical workplace. If your business is like many, the return you initially planned was disrupted when the delta variant started rapidly spreading throughout the country. As we move into the Holiday Season, many companies are zeroing in on new methods to keep their team safe, including enforcing vaccine mandates. If you are back at the drawing board when it comes to creating the ideal plan forward for your company, we hope to provide insights to help you navigate this critical period in time.
Vaccine Rules for Workers in 2022
There are a host of new rules regarding vaccination that will go into effect starting January 4, 2022. If you have not reviewed the regulations yet, here are a few of the most critical points:
- Companies with 100+ employees must ensure that all their workers are fully vaccinated, or that unvaccinated employees test negative for COVID-19 each week.
- Workers must receive paid time off to get vaccinated.
- Employers are not required to fund employee COVID-19 testing
- Unvaccinated employees must wear masks (effective December 5, 2021)
While there is currently an emergency and temporary halt on the new regulations, it has been suggested that employers subject to the mandate should still actively work to put a plan in place for compliance.
The Implications of the Vaccine Mandate
The mandate is set to impact over 80 million employees in the United States or roughly two-thirds of the workforce. Companies across the country will be left to self-regulate their vaccine mandates, meaning there is a bit of wiggle room to enforce the mandate as you see fit. For businesses with over 100 employees, the decision to adhere to the mandate is the obvious optimal path forward. Failure to comply with the mandate could introduce safety concerns, liability concerns, and unwanted negative outside attention. Businesses in the management, utilities, information, and finance industries are most likely to be affected by the mandate, as over 80% of employees in these fields work at companies with over 100 employees.
This begs the question: what if my business has 98 employees? Businesses with under 100 employees are effectively left to create (or not create) their own vaccine mandates. As of right now, this is a very polarizing topic with several layers and viewpoints. We’ve found this piece by the New York Times to contain the most comprehensive look at the various approaches companies with under 100 employees will follow. As you develop your own approach, keep in mind that the 100-worker threshold could be lowered in the coming weeks. As such, we recommend staying agile and keeping a close eye on updates from the White House.
Best Practices for Vaccine Verification
If your business does indeed decide to put a vaccine mandate in place, the best advice we can offer is to clearly define the rules for both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and stay agile with your approach throughout our everchanging situation with the virus. Additionally, we strongly encourage you to have a plan in place when it comes to verifying the vaccination status of your team. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind for best results when forming your own plan:
- Do not compromise on HIPAA compliance. If you work with an HR firm for your vaccine verification program, be sure to keep in mind that the HR and the medical field have vastly different privacy requirements. As such, you’ll want to ensure that any prospective partners have the ability to go above and beyond their traditional privacy practices to stay HIPAA compliant and protect the privacy of your team.
- Digitize vaccine cards as a perk. Roughly 3 in 10 vaccinated Americans have already lost their vaccine cards, which could obviously spell difficulties for them in the future. Offering a verified digital vaccine card is a perk that your employees are sure to benefit from with this statistic in mind. If you do decide to go this route, be sure to only choose digital vaccination cards that are SMART Card enabled. This is the most widely used and recognized technology and is particularly popular among health organizations themselves.
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TriBridge Partners is an Expert Services Firm in the areas of Modern Health and Employee Benefits, HR Technology, Retirement Plan Services, Executive and High Performer Compensation, and Employee Engagement. Everything we do, we do because we believe in making a meaningful difference in the lives of those we serve. To discover how our experts can assist your organization or business, please call our office today at 240-422-8799.