Employers wonder what the requirement to vaccinate federal employees means to them

President Joe Biden’s demand for federal workers to disclose their COVID-19 vaccination status is likely to raise uncomfortable questions not only in government agencies but also in private companies.

There are no clear answers right now.

Developing policies correctly will take time and vary from government to government. It’s the same with private companies, for which the White House is trying to provide guidance. This is not what a cheat sheet is. Nothing like this has ever been attempted before in the face of the real-time transformation of the virus to become a more serious threat.

“We developed a miraculous vaccine in a very short period of time, and government and business were very reluctant to take a top-down approach,” said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president of Challenger, a consulting firm. , Gray and christmas. “We have now reached the point where it is very clear that the individual incentives that people need to protect are not strong enough to protect the country, and we see the government taking that first step.”

Biden’s plan for federal labor, announced Thursday, did not explicitly tell the feds to roll up their sleeves.

Instead, workers will have to confirm if they have been vaccinated. While employees are not required to present a vaccination card, “certification” is a common word in the federal workplace, strictly regulated by rules and regulations. This has consequences for providing false or misleading information. How this will be implemented remains unclear, but employees who voluntarily provide valid proof of vaccination are likely to address potential issues in advance.

The unvaccinated will have to put up with regular testing, mandatory camouflage and social distancing, and will be banned from official travel. Similar rules will apply to federal contractors.

Continuous testing causes other problems. For most people, health insurance pays. But will this continue if someone refuses to be vaccinated and is not eligible for medical or religious exemptions?

Disguise has always been a painful topic. But how will agencies pursue a policy of camouflage if not everyone needs to be vaccinated? Will curators patrol the unvaccinated list boxes?

There are many reasons why the transfer of Biden’s order to the workplace may not go smoothly. Government agencies tend to have their own unique culture, and their missions span the entire spectrum. Doctors at the National Institutes of Health are likely already vaccinated, but some law enforcement officials may be wary of getting a vaccine that has not yet been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The largest union representing federal workers, the American Federation of Government Officials, has already received notice and expects any changes to working conditions to be “duly agreed with our negotiating units prior to implementation.”

As for the Pentagon, it has been ordered to study how and when COVID-19 vaccines will become mandatory for military personnel. Service staff already need to receive up to 17 vaccines, depending on where they are based around the world.

Even when Biden laid out his federal plan, some companies, such as Google, were already ahead of him, stating that they would simply need to get vaccinated. But the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business organization, endorsed Biden’s actions as “sensible steps to protect public health and rebuild our economy.”

According to Jeff Hyman, a business writer and recruiting expert, for public or private employees, the first and most important questions are about proving their vaccination status and eligibility for exceptions.

“Are they going to take it for granted?” Hyman asked. There is no central database on vaccinations.

“What is the exclusion policy?” he continued. “There should be exceptions for religious and medical reasons, and this asterisk will be very important.”

But if the workers ask for release on religious grounds, will they have to submit a note from a clergyman?

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that an employer must provide “reasonable accommodation” for medical or religious reasons “that does not unduly complicate the employer’s business.”

But under the law, companies can require vaccinations as “a condition for hiring,” the Justice Department said in a recent statement.

Biden is at risk here, Hyman said, but doing nothing in the face of the growing number of cases caused by the aggressive delta option is not an option.

“It’s very easy to guess because if you were right, you will only find out in hindsight,” Hyman said. “We won’t know for a while if this was the optimal solution, but at least he is doing something.”

News that the economy has surpassed its size before the pandemic only underscores the importance of Biden’s move. New outbreaks and blackouts could weaken hiring and production, creating a new political narrative for Republicans trying to regain control of Congress next year.

In addition, the delicate issue of workplace etiquette often arises. How will unvaccinated employees interact with their vaccinated peers? Do you have to split work units?

Challenger, a human resources consultant, said his company has developed a system that allows everyone to discreetly signal their comfort level when interacting when they re-enter the workplace. It includes bracelets in green, yellow and red.

Green means that a person is comfortable returning to what was before. Red signals to others to keep 6 feet away. Yellow is an intermediate zone, implying some uncertainty in communication.

“This is such an innovative situation, we don’t have many best practices to follow,” he said.

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