In September, the White House officially announced “The Path Out of the Pandemic,” an action plan designed to give businesses, schools, and the economy guidance on how to successfully and safely remain open.
A major focus of this plan is to increase COVID-19 vaccinations through regulations and mandates. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is one of the agencies that is establishing vaccine mandates that impact a large number of organizations across the country.
What are the details of the OSHA Vaccine Mandate?
OSHA’s mandate requires employers with 100 or more employees to have a fully vaccinated staff. However, religious and medical exemptions will be allowed with approved documentation. Those who are not vaccinated will also need to submit negative tests results on a weekly basis to continue their employment. OSHA will issue this as an emergency temporary standard in order to enforce this requirement in a timely manner.
The OSHA mandate differs slightly from the other mandates announced in The Path Out of the Pandemic. Those are:
- The Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees -- this mandate applies to Federal executive branch workers. It was first enacted in July but has been updated to remove the weekly testing option as an alternative to vaccination.
- The Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors -- this mandate applies to all employees working for organizations that provide government contracts and subcontracts. There is also no option for testing as an alternative to vaccination.
While the exact deadlines for compliance have not been finalized for all mandates yet, employers can start preparing now.
What does the vaccine mandate mean for organizations?
Organizations subject to a vaccine and/or testing mandate have to take swift action to create a compliance plan and communicate it to employees. These plans need to cover a multitude of items, including:
- How the mandate will be communicated with employees to ensure they are aware and understand what is being asked of them
- Contingency plans in the event that an employee does not comply with the mandates
- An internal timeline that gives employees enough time to get vaccinated if they wish, but also keeps you ahead of the federal deadline
- A system for employees to submit exemption documentation
- A strategy for HR to be able to keep track of vaccination and/or testing status for all employees
- A way for HR to remind those employees not vaccinated to comply with weekly testing
- A way to engage the workforce and present the mandate as an opportunity for improving wellness culture
- Methodology for reporting to OSHA as per the requirement
- While this may seem like a tall order, with the right strategies in place it doesn’t have to be.
How your organization can successfully comply with vaccine mandates
While the plans outlined above may look different from organization to organization, they all have one thing in common: they can benefit from having the right tools and technology in place. And not a tool that only provides a repository for documents uploaded by employees -- that would still require the HR team to review and verify all documentation and manually manage vaccination and testing reminders. Employers implementing a vaccination program need a solution that fully automates the entire process and ensures compliance both with HIPPA and with the OSHA mandate.
Validating vaccinations, exceptions and testings, as well as weekly reporting to OSHA, can be a heavy lift for HR teams. But there are solutions that have been developed to help employers with just this. For example, SimplyWell - Vaccine Compliance manages the entire process with a user-friendly application, in-house document verification, and automated HIPAA-compliant reporting.
With a solution like this, employees can upload their proof of vaccination, proof of exemption and/or test results (and exemptions) to be confirmed. It provides both automated and real-time reporting so you can stay in good standing with OSHA while also knowing the real-time status of your employees. Additionally, it will send reminders to upload the required documentation based on the employee’s status.
Many companies are grappling with how to handle COVID vaccinations. Some want to encourage employees to get the vaccine by offering a reward. Others prefer to make it a requirement. A customizable program is ideal to ensure you have the best program available that works for your organization and your employees’ needs.
Getting your vaccine mandate plan kicked off
Getting started is simple, and at Clarity, we also handle the communication to employees that will help them get familiar with the solution and maintain proper use.
If you have not yet put your plan into place for OSHA vaccine mandate requirements -- or you’re looking to take your current plan to the next level with technology that supports it -- reach out today to get started.