Back in September, President Biden announced the impending arrival of two emergency regulations that would impose new COVID-19 vaccination requirements on more than 100 million private sector workers. Today, the White House announced December 5, 2021 and January 4, 2022 as the dates on which the regulations’ different vaccination requirements will take effect.
The first of the emergency regulations, issued by OSHA, requires employers with 100 or more employees to enact a written policy providing that any employee who is not fully-vaccinated by the January 4 deadline must produce a negative COVID-19 test each week before coming into work. Covered employers are not responsible for paying the cost of these weekly tests; however, starting on December 5, they must provide up to four hours of paid time off for employees to receive COVID-19 shots and paid sick leave for employees to recover from the vaccine’s side effects. Also by December 5, OSHA’s regulation mandates, with certain exceptions, that employees who are not fully-vaccinated wear masks while indoors or while in a vehicle with another person. Specifically excepted from these rules are employees with valid medical or religious exemptions, employees who work 100% remotely, and employees who work exclusively outdoors. Federal contractors subject to vaccination requirements under previous executive orders are also exempt from these standards.
The second of these emergency regulations will be issued tomorrow by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Employees who work in health care facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding will need to have received at least one dose of an approved vaccine by December 5 and must be fully-vaccinated by January 4. Unlike the OSHA regulation, the CMS regulation does not give covered workers the option to pass weekly COVID tests in lieu of receiving the vaccine – only those employees with medical or religious exemptions and those who work entirely remotely are excused.
Those employers who will be covered by either of these new regulations should promptly inform their employees of these new deadlines and their HR Departments should begin taking steps to determine each employee’s vaccination status. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with any specific questions you may have. K|W|W will continue to issue further guidance as to the OSHA and CMS requirements as it becomes available. Your workforce is our priority.