Benefits news you may have missed: Nov. 1-5

From the unveiling of Biden’s vaccine employer mandate to COVID booster shots and vaccines for kids, here are some of the week’s top stories.
By: | November 5, 2021

Biden’s vaccine mandate rule is released: What HR needs to know now: The Biden administration on Thursday released details of its long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine mandate rule for employers, lifting looming uncertainty for organizations and demanding that HR and company leaders act quickly to ensure their workers are vaccinated. Read more here.

COVID vaccines for kids are here. What role do employers play? The authorization this week of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 is the latest major step in the push to get Americans vaccinated. It’s also another opportunity for employers to step up their efforts to boost inoculation numbers by offering encouragement, messaging and incentives, as well as easing challenges—all in a move to get employees to vaccinate their kids. Read more here.

5 expert takeaways from the new OSHA vaccine mandate: The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday unveiled details of the long-awaited rule following President Joe Biden’s announcement in September requiring U.S. employers with 100 or more workers to ensure employees are either fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or tested each week for the virus. The long-awaited and far-reaching rule that is expected to cover some 84 million employees has extensive implications for employers, who until recently have largely stuck to carrots instead of sticks in encouraging their employees to get vaccinated. Here is what the experts say on five major implications of the rule. Read more here.

COVID booster shots are here. What should employers do? COVID-19 vaccination has become one of employers’ biggest responsibilities—and pain points. There’s been debate over what role companies should take: if they should encourage the shots for their employees, require them or simply do nothing. Companies have grappled with vaccination requirements as they look to reopen their workplaces. They’ve have had to figure out how to track and verify who among their workforce has been vaccinated. Now, company leaders have to add another variable to the vaccination equation: additional COVID-19 shots for vaccinated individuals. Read more here.

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How many workers have quit to avoid vaccine mandates? Just 5% of unvaccinated workers—and 1% of all workers overall—said they left a job because of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate from their employer, more evidence that a feared exodus of workers due to mandates isn’t as severe as some predicted. Read more here.

Why a ‘healthy’ organization delivers a clear competitive edge: There’s been much said in recent months about holistic employee health, encompassing the mental, emotional, financial, psychological and other components of individual employee wellness. But how important is it to also have a holistically “healthy” organization? Very important, according to a new report that found that such companies are apt to see significant business benefits. Read more here.

Medical exemptions to mandates? 5 answers from a legal expert: As private employers begin to widely adopt COVID-19 vaccine mandates, they are increasingly encountering resistance from employees who claim to have a medical reason for why they cannot be vaccinated. How are HR leaders, most of whom have no medical background themselves, supposed to evaluate these claims, though? Can they ask for additional information? What if they disagree with the reasoning of the doctor who claims the employee cannot be vaccinated? Read more here.

10 things Microsoft has learned about successful hybrid work: With more than 175,000 employees across 74 countries, Microsoft was faced with an enormous people challenge when the pandemic set in early last year and the world of work largely moved to a remote setting. From creating connection in virtual environments to scrambling to keep up with quickly changing employee needs, Microsoft’s HR professionals have been working since to manage what’s likely going to be the “biggest change” in most employees’ careers, said Amy Coleman, corporate vice president, HR and corporate functions, at Microsoft. Read more here.

Caregivers say they may be forced to choose between job and caregiving responsibilities in the coming year: Working caregivers say 2021 was one of the hardest years of their life due to caregiving responsibilities and challenges in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, according to new data released by Fidelity Investments. Forty-two percent of those caring for children say they’ll “fall apart” if school or professional childcare doesn’t return to normal soon. Read more here.

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Here’s how much employer support can impact retention: When employers stepped up to provide essential support during COVID-19, it made a positive difference, according to research from consulting firm Mercer. Employees who say they received good support—like varied benefits, virtual healthcare and mental health help—from their employers are much less likely to view their personal experience of the pandemic as mostly or entirely negative compared to those who received little or no support. Read more here.

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.