As promised by the initial announcement of the Vaccine Mandate proposal on September 9th, The Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is effective beginning November 5th since recently issued by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
While we know this means companies with over 100 employees will now be required to mandate vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests, a larger question remains: How will all of this data be tracked by organizations and their HR departments? Before we get ahead of ourselves, here is a deep dive into what the ETS will look like.
The Rules and Requirements of the ETS:
- Must implement a mandatory vaccine policy with or without exception allowing for weekly testing and face coverings (which must begin January 4, 2022) for companies with over 100 employees.
- Must provide up to four hours PTO and paid sick leave for vaccination time and recovery.
- Must provide records and proof of vaccination status and keep them updated. These must be regarded as public information.
- Require notice of positive COVID test and immediate removal from the workplace for an adequate amount of time.
- Must report hospitalizations due to COVID-19 within 24 hours of knowledge.
- Must report fatalities within 8 hours of knowing.
While this is a lot to digest, it can mean many things for employers and can be handled several ways. For instance, aside from these requirements, you as an employer can enforce a policy you see fit.
One example of an exception could be allowing unvaccinated workers to work from home. If this is an option for your organization, how many people can you afford to make this exception for?
Another lies in that you have the right not to allow the exception to get weekly tests in place of vaccination. Would this be a good option for your organization?
Tracking and Managing the New ETS Requirements
As if the HR department is not already overwhelmed with open enrollment, navigating the great resignation, and preparing for year-end, there is now immediate urgency to have a plan in place to maintain compliance with the ETS. So how will HR easily organize, track, and maintain the health status of employees?
From speaking directly with mid-market leaders, the tracking and management of employee testing and vaccination status has become a top business challenge that greatly impacts day-to-day operations. This unprecedented challenge has had many leaders in a state of panic searching for ways to streamline processes and ensure compliance with whatever rules were to be thrown their way. It has all come down to the need for a technology system that can:
- Maintain vaccination and exemption status
- Track periodic testing
- Determine eligibility for employees to return to work safely
- Record adverse reactions to vaccines
- Report any hospitalizations or fatalities
In addition to these features, the solution also needs to work with their HR, Payroll, and Time and Labor solution to ensure that:
- Employee time off is coded correctly
- Shifts are filled and covered
- Payroll is ran accurately taking into account any special pay rates
This demand for a solution has pushed HR technology providers to enhance their current systems or integrate with other technology partners that offer the right solutions to help their clients navigate and comply with the ETS.
The Federal Halt
Another thing to note is the push back against the mandate and repercussions that have arisen as a result. The day after the ETS was released 26 state attorney generals filed at least four separate lawsuits challenging further assessment. As of Saturday, November 6, 2021, a three-judge panel granted a temporary halt sought by Texas, Utah, Mississippi, and South Carolina. As of this Tuesday, November 9, 2021, the stay has put a hold on certain deadlines outlined in the ETS, however, the mandate remains.
As employers, states, and other organizations continue to push back against the ETS, we should all prepare to adapt to any changes as this piece will likely evolve.
Several days following the approval of the mandate, ETS was then suspended based on its alleged unconstitutionality and numerous lawsuits filed in protest.
The OSHA website reads, “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.”
With the ongoing mandate still up in the air, employers are encouraged to remain diligent and ready for any outcome.
This blog post was written by Alexa Rivera and may be copied or published without PeopleGuru's express written permission.