Benefits news you may have missed: Sept. 13-17

5 ways to get ahead of Biden’s new employer vaccine mandate: With about 100 million American workers included in its broad scope, President Biden’s recent vaccine mandate for large private employers will have vast legal implications for U.S. organizations. That was the takeaway from a webinar held this week by the Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney to discuss the topic and provide early guidance for employers. Read more here.

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How DEI, the Great Resignation are changing benefits: An overwhelming number of employers are planning to revamp their benefits strategy, new research finds, a change fueled by a hot job market, rising benefits costs, diversity efforts and the continuing pandemic. Consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found in its new, annual benefits trends survey that more than two-thirds of employers (69%) plan to differentiate and customize their benefit programs over the next two years, a sharp increase from 23% today. Read more here.

Why help is essential as Delta worsens employee mental health: A few months back, employee mental health seemed likely to start improving: Vaccines were here, COVID-19 infections were on the decline, and overall mental health data appeared to be stabilizing after declining for months. But now, with COVID-19 cases again surging across the country, employees are having a hard time emotionally. “People have been as adaptive as they can be over the past year and a half with the promise that there would be this light at the end of the tunnel. And then it turns out, there’s just more tunnel,” says Joe Grasso, director of workforce mental health for Lyra Health and a licensed clinical psychologist. So just how is the Delta variant affecting employee mental health? And what can and should employers do? Read more here.

Can religious beliefs get employees out of vaccine mandates? With the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant on the rise, mandatory vaccination requirements are becoming more prevalent in the workplace. Unless prohibited by law or a collective bargaining agreement, employers are free to determine the terms and conditions of work, including that vaccination against COVID is an essential safety rule and qualification for employment. In addition, OSHA compels almost every employer to provide workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Nothing in modern times falls more directly into the category of a recognized hazard than COVID. Read more here.

6 experts on what Biden’s vaccine mandate means for HR: President Biden’s announcement this week that a majority of employers will need to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for all employees is making waves throughout the HR industry. For those employers that had yet to mandate vaccines, some will likely welcome the news that the decision was taken out of their hands, while others may worry about employee backlash, especially in this age of the Great Resignation. Read more here.

Half of employers changing return to office plans: More than half of employers say they are rethinking their return-to-work timing in the midst of the Delta variant, which is responsible for the latest COVID surge, according to new data from the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. Here’s what that means for HR leaders. Read more here.

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Kathryn Mayer
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s former 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.