Telecommute during COVID
On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced major changes to US regulations for COVID-19 vaccinations. An Emergency Temporary Standard was announced which will outline new rules and regulations for businesses and their employees. This ETS will be issued in the next one to four weeks, and while there are details we don’t know yet there are steps your business can take now. What policies and changes should your business make right now to be prepared?

Potential Legal Challenges

There are many questions about the legal challenges against this ETS, and 24 states have already threatened to sue. These challenges may even reach the Supreme Court. Once the ETS are released, the OSHA act allows plaintiffs to file petitions to a federal court of appeals.

It’s impossible to know whether your business will be affected, so it’s prudent to take steps to prepare for these changes and comply with the ETS. SixFfifty is here to help you comply with this vaccine mandate.

Vaccination Policy Options

When it comes to the vaccine policies, companies have four basic options to choose from.

  1. Require employees be vaccinated for COVID-19
  2. Require vaccination or weekly COVID-19 testing
  3. Encourage vaccinations without requiring them
  4. No policy

Each of these policies has its own rules and regulations.

What to include in your Policies

First, make sure to distinguish between employees who work at worksites vs employees who work from home 100% of the time.

You’ll also need to plan for exemptions. Employees with a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief which prevent them from being vaccinated for COVID-19 will need an exemption process to be in place. In many cases, your business may be able to offer working from home or taking a weekly COVID test as an alternative to vaccination.

The ETS will likely require employers to offer paid time off for COVID vaccination and testing, as well as covering the cost of your employees’ COVID tests.

Finally, and critically, your business should have a written policy for how you’ll collect and store vaccination and testing information. There’s a lot to consider when deciding how to collect and store private health information, and SixFifty recommends being transparent and providing employees with as much advance notice as you can.

Policy Requiring Vaccinations

If your business involves healthcare workers, executive branch employees, or government contractors, then you will likely need to create a policy which requires COVID-19 vaccination.

Your policy will need to include details about who must be vaccinated (likely only employees who work at a worksite or interact with others as part of their job) and how PTO applies. Be sure to plan PTO for the vaccine itself, as well as the time it takes to recover from the vaccine.

Policy Requiring Vaccinations or Testing

This policy option will be required for employers with 100 or more employees. It will require your employees to either be fully vaccinated or to be tested for COVID-19 weekly. This Policy needs to address the following:

  • Potential differences in-office procedures for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
  • Differences in information collection
  • Procedures for testing and for excluding positive cases from the workplace

Policy Encouraging Vaccinations

This policy is only available for small employers. Depending on your state’s OSHA standards, this policy might be an option for your business. It needs to address:

  • Potential differences in-office procedures for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
  • Differences in information collection
  • Procedures for testing and excluding positive cases from the workplace
  • Incentives for getting vaccinated, if you choose to offer them.

No Policy

This plan for your business is not recommended. Having no formal policy about COVID-19 vaccination or testing leaves companies vulnerable, and can lead to potential outbreaks and employee confusion.

Collecting and storing information

When collecting vaccine status and test results, it’s important to know how you plan to collect this data. Depending on your company policy you will need to collect different information.

When collecting Vaccine Status you can either collect proof (like a vaccine card) and then retain a copy, collect proof and not retain a copy, or allow for “self attestation” where employees certify that they’ve been vaccinated without providing proof.

Collecting test results will happen more frequently than collecting vaccine status, and your options will be similar. You can collect proof of a COVID test and retain a copy of that proof, collect proof but not retain a copy, or allow employees to self-attest their COVID-19 test results.

Once you collect this information you will need a way to store it, and you will need to keep it as confidential medical information. This means storing it separately from an employee’s file. You will also need to limit access and store the information for the appropriate period.

The current Cal/OSHA standard, for example, requires you to maintain records for the length of time necessary to establish compliance with the regulation. That standard may change, requiring you to maintain records for two years beyond the period “in which the records are necessary to meet the requirements” of the proposed regulations.If that sounds a little confusing to you, you’re not alone.

SixFifty can Help!

This blog has been written specifically to be digestible to a non-legal audience, but it’s still pretty complicated. That’s just the nature of the law, especially right now. Luckily, SixFifty is here to help your company comply with the new vaccine mandate. We regularly update our Return-to-Work toolset to help you and your business, and our Vaccine Policy and Status solutions will be updated when the ETS details are released.

For more information, check out the webinar below on the Vaccine Mandate. For more information request a free demo today to see what SixFifty can do for you!