Compliance

Vaccine mandates: what are they and how should businesses handle them

By Gustav Anderson

Sep. 22, 2021

Summary

  • Under Biden’s mandate, companies with 100+ employees now must require vaccinations or weekly testing for all workers

  • Vaccine mandates face pushback, both currently and in the past, with 45% of the U.S. population choosing not to be vaccinated

  • Businesses can use qualification tags, notifications, and shift questions to manage employee vaccination and testing status

The COVID-19 delta variant is becoming a serious threat across the nation. Mask mandates are back in vogue and remote work is once again looming on the horizon – all this and flu season hasn’t even begun.

In light of all this, many businesses have turned to their own internal vaccine mandates. One of the largest breweries in the world, Molson Coors, announced earlier this year a vaccine mandate for all non-union corporate, sales, and contract employees. Some states like Washington and Connecticut have also issued strict mandates for government and healthcare employees.

Biden’s Mandate

This trend has made its way into federal policy recently with the introduction of President Biden’s new vaccine mandate that will affect around 80 million people. Businesses with over 100 workers now must require vaccinations or weekly testing for all their employees – the alternative is a $14k fine. Ouch.

And the mandate does not stop there.

Anyone involved with the federal government in any capacity must show proof of vaccination with no weekly testing as an alternative. This means federal employees, contractors, and federally funded healthcare workers all are required to be vaccinated.

Government officials in states like Texas, South Carolina, and Florida are pushing back, with many citing the new mandates from the administration as overreaching and unconstitutional. Florida governor Ron DeSantis recently signed an executive order in direct retaliation to Biden’s mandate. The rule bans Florida employers and businesses from requiring people to provide proof of vaccination. Failure to comply with the vaccine passport ban results in a $5,000 fine per case. How this state rule will clash with the federal mandate remains to be seen.

This kind of contention is nothing new.

A Divisive History

Vaccine requirements in the past have almost always been met with resistance, and occasionally even full-blown lawsuits. Medical workers in Houston are suing their hospital a second time now after their first case was dismissed earlier this year. The 61 employees are suing in the wake of being suspended and fired for failure to comply with their hospital’s stringent vaccine requirements.

Unions have also traditionally held anti-vaccine mandate policies.

In Chicago, the police union refused to comply with local vaccine requirements announced last month. In fact, the union is reportedly prepared to go to court over the matter. However, many other unions have changed their policies in light of both Biden’s mandates as well as the FDA’s approval of Pfizer last month. Even so, vaccine mandates are still a topic of division among unions – this is something important for companies to keep in mind when navigating Biden’s new requirements.

Staying Compliant

Needless to say, there is a lot of tension surrounding vaccine passport culture. Whether the new mandates are constitutional or not, the fact of the matter is they are here, and business owners everywhere need to do their best to stay compliant.

For companies with 100+ employees not involved with the federal government, the first step to staying compliant is understanding who is exempt from vaccination.

According to the EEOC, an employer cannot issue a blanket vaccine requirement without providing appropriate exceptions for employees with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs. If workers cite one of these exceptions, employers can only mandate that they provide weekly negative test results.

Understanding the laws and technicalities surrounding all these changes is one thing; effectively adapting a workforce management system to these changes is a whole other matter.

Qualifications and Accommodations

There are two primary areas to keep in mind when dealing with the onset of nationwide vaccine mandates: qualifications and accommodations. Managers need to learn how to properly balance vaccine qualification requirements for specific jobs with accommodations for employees that meet exemptions. Accomplishing this balance will translate to an organized and collaborative workforce.

To potentially assist with balancing qualifications and accommodations, Workforce.com offers a few useful features.

The Limiting Scheduling According to Qualifications feature allows managers to keep track of and update employee certifications required for specific jobs. Since vaccines are essentially a kind of certification now, this feature is nearly essential in 2021. By adding a vaccinated status to the customizable qualifications list, managers are able to automatically restrict shifts to various employees.

Joseph Cuellar, a software consultant at Workforce.com, notes, “recently we’ve seen a lot of companies use the qualifications feature to make sure they’re on top of vaccination requirements.” In the coming months, this trend is likely to continue.

Another way for businesses to manage their COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirements is to have employees answer pertinent questions when clocking in. With Workforce.com, managers can prompt employees with questions like these to confirm that they understand the vaccine and testing requirements associated with employment, or confirm that they’ve not exhibited symptoms of COVID-19.

As previously mentioned, these vaccine related qualifications for shifts must be balanced with accommodations.

Some employees may meet one of the two exceptions for getting vaccinated, and organizations should consider properly accommodating them. If they choose not to, they run the risk of losing significant human capital at a time when national staffing shortages are plaguing various industries.

To successfully accommodate exempt employees, both the qualifications tool as well as clock-in questions may be used. Managers can also send weekly reminder notifications to exempt employees to get tested. They can also create a custom qualification tag for testing status that expires after a week. As a daily safeguard, clock-in questions regarding proof of negative tests can also be used.

Vaccine-heavy Future

At the end of the day, if your company has over 100 workers, it is safest to assume that you’ll need a way to keep track of vaccination status across your workforce. Tracking the status of vaccinations and negative test results can be complicated, but there are ways to make it a clear and concise process with workforce management solutions.

Times are hard. Let us make them a little easier for you. Chat with us today over the phone about handling vaccines and testing requirements, or leave your email below and one of our team members will be in touch.

Gustav is a communications officer with Workforce.com. His past work includes media outreach for a Guinness World Record team and market research published by the University of Maine. He has a keen interest in storytelling, frontline labor issues, and all things relating to pigeons.

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