The latest on vaccine mandates: Here are HRE’s top stories

Check out all of our recent coverage tracking the HR implications of the quickly developing news.
By: | November 5, 2021

President Joe Biden in September announced a series of plans to more aggressively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic—including a surprising announcement requiring scores of private employers to mandate their workers get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. And two months later on Nov. 4, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration unveiled the details of the rule.

Wondering what the mandate rule entails, what to do now, how to handle exemptions or what employers think? Take a look at HRE’s recent coverage:

Latest guidance

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.

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5 expert takeaways from the new OSHA vaccine mandate: The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s long-awaited and far-reaching rule is expected to cover some 84 million employees. The measure 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.

Everything HR needs to know about Biden’s vaccine mandate: In September, President Joe Biden announced a series of plans to more aggressively tackle the COVID-19 pandemic—including a surprising announcement requiring scores of private employers to mandate their workers get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID testing. The upcoming rule will have widespread implications for employers. So, how should company and HR leaders prepare?

Exemptions

Medical exemptions to mandates? 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?

6 takeaways from EEOC guidance on religious vaccine exemptions: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expanded its guidance on religious exemptions to employer vaccine mandates under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here are some highlights and how it relates to the new vaccine mandate.

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Employee communications

9 tips for telling workers about your new vaccine mandate: COVID-19 vaccine mandates have gained steam in recent weeks, as the highly contagious Delta variant causes employers to take more serious action. How can employers that plan to mandate vaccines relay those plans to employees? Here’s what experts say.

Technology tips

Mandating vaccines? How tracking tech can help with the next step: With President Biden’s recent announcement that employers with at least 100 employees will need to start mandating vaccines or requiring weekly COVID-19 testing—all while companies continue to debate safely having employees return to the office—a new breed of HR technology has emerged to advance workplace safety in the age of COVID: vaccination tracking tools.

Employee responses

Is your talent really walking out the door to avoid a COVID vaccine? While some employers have stepped up significantly on COVID-19 vaccine mandates in recent weeks, many others have stayed the course by encouraging vaccination or incentivizing workers to get them. One of the main reasons employers largely haven’t required employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, even if they wanted to, is fear over losing employees. But research has shown that turnover hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as some predicted it could be.

How many unvaccinated workers have really quit to avoid getting a vaccine? A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey reveals the number of unvaccinated workers who have left a job because of a vaccine requirement.

Employer responses

COVID vaccine mandates surge among employers: More than half of employers already have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate or are strongly considering one, according to a survey from insurance broker McGriff. The survey of 315 employers—which was conducted Sept. 1 before President Biden announced his vaccine mandate plan—reiterates that many employers were already leaning in that direction.

HR’s next steps

Legal experts: Don’t delay in prepping for Biden vaccine mandate: As employers awaited final guidance on how to follow federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates and accommodate exemptions, experts advised leaders to put their strategies and tools in place to be ahead of the game. “Don’t wait; we know we’re going to have to do something,” says Tamika Newson, assistant vice president and legal counsel of Unum’s Employment Law Group, who spoke during a recent HRE livestream. “Get your HR and legal staff prepared now for what’s coming next.”

6 experts on what Biden’s vaccine mandate means for HR: President Biden’s announcement in September that a majority of employers will need to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for all employees made waves throughout the HR industry. For those employers that had yet to mandate vaccines, some welcomed the news that the decision was taken out of their hands, while others worried about employee backlash, especially in this age of the Great Resignation. No matter where employers fall on the issue, one thing is for certain: HR leaders are in the crosshairs of this decision. Here is what experts told HRE about the announcement.

Vaccine mandates now required: What to know about Biden’s new rules: In one of the biggest moves yet in the effort to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, President Biden unveiled new vaccination requirements that were expected to have major repercussions for employers. “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers,” Biden said during a press event unveiling the news.

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.