How to Manage New Health Mandates While Keeping Your Staff Safe

by Sarah Niderost, 6 minutes read
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This post was updated on September 13, 2021, with the following information:

U.S. Vaccination Mandate Update:

Last week, President Biden announced the move to require roughly 100 million Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, including federal employees, health care workers, and some private sector staff. (New York Times)

Here’s who it will affect:

  • Large Employers

    • Employers with more than 100 workers require vaccinations, or weekly Covid-19 tests (OSHA to release an Emergency Temporary Standard).

    • The ETS is expected to require employers to verify that their workers are vaccinated before coming to work.

    • Employees who do not get vaccinated would have to provide a weekly negative COVID-19 test to be allowed to remain in the workplace.

    • The standard will also require the large employers to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects from the vaccine. No deadline for this requirement has been released yet.

  • Federal Employees

    • All federal executive branch workers must be vaccinated (they do not have the weekly testing option). (National Law Review)

    • This would cover many agencies, like the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the USDA.

    • If federal workers choose not to be vaccinated and do not meet either the religious exemption under Title VII or the medical condition exemption under the ADA, they may be subject to progressive discipline, including termination.

    • This requirement was also extended to federal contractors and may not simply apply to those contractor employees who appear on federal property.

  • Healthcare Workers

    • Following past requirements for nursing home facilities, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require vaccinations for workers in most healthcare settings. (National Law Review)

    • If a hospital, clinic, or other medical services provider receives reimbursements from Medicare or Medicaid, they are likely covered by this new vaccination requirement.

    • Like the federal workers and contractors, there is no weekly testing alternative. Although the CMS requirement for nursing home facilities was announced in mid-August, as of President Biden’s September 9th announcement, CMS has not yet issued a rule.

Revisit our Schedule Safely guidelines below for you can prepare your team for Covid-19 vaccination mandates and testings. Visit OSHA and The CDC websites to learn more about vaccination mandates and recommendations by state.

Workplace safety guidelines all over the globe are rapidly changing again due to the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant. And it’s employers’ responsibility to review and update their current safety policies to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers.

In the U.S., major cities like New York and San Francisco have begun to require masks indoors to stop the spread of the deadly disease. The response to the rise of the Delta variant across the country is constantly shifting with the surge in cases per state, but the fear for shift workers and their safety is much the same.

We’re entering a new reality where vaccinations will be required in many places throughout the U.S., from offices to restaurants. American businesses created a lot of policies around the start of the pandemic. Now it’s time to transform them as safety requirements change and vaccinations continue to be distributed. Read on to learn how you can keep your workplace safe while managing new health mandates.

Be aware of local health mandates and laws in your area

COVID-19 vaccine mandates throughout the U.S. are on the rise. As of late July, the state of California, the city of New York, and many government agencies have announced vaccine mandates for all government workers. President Biden reinforced these mandates, declaring vaccine mandates for all federal workers and contractors.

Additionally, a growing list of companies have required COVID-19 vaccines for in-office workers, including tech giants Facebook and Google, as well as Delta Airlines, Walmart, and Netflix.

Of course, before you implement similar policies or ask your employees for medical information — such as COVID-19 test results or vaccine status — be sure to check the applicable laws to your business and local government area. It’s essential to check guidelines on where and how employers can lawfully collect and store this kind of information.

Find new ways to support your team when it comes to vaccinations

Making up nearly 60% of the U.S. workforce, a huge percentage of hourly shift workers have been the essential workforce on the frontline of the pandemic. However, many of them are not vaccinated. Nearly 20% of workers said they haven’t gotten vaccinated because they’re afraid of missing work or because they’re too busy. That proportion jumps to 26% for Black workers and 40% for Hispanic workers.

At first, the solution for motivating people to get vaccinated was to roll out flashy incentives — like free doughnuts and lottery tickets. But those incentives fell flat. Now, we’re facing a grave reality. Either get vaccinated or face the possibility of contracting the potentially deadly Delta variant. For hourly workers, this means taking time off work or losing their job altogether.

You play a massive role in educating your team and encouraging them to get vaccinated. Here are three key ways you can support your staff:

  • Flexible schedules: Provide staff members with the flexibility in their schedules to swap shifts or make changes in their scheduled hours so they’re able to attend their vaccination appointments.

  • Paid time off: Many workers are concerned about losing pay if they want to take time off to get vaccinated. Take care of these concerns and help to keep your team safe by providing PTO to workers who wish to get the vaccination (there are tax benefits to this option too).

  • One-on-one conversations: Your employees inherently trust you and one-on-one conversations can go a long way. Especially when it comes to communicating over scheduling, availability, or even hesitancy with vaccinations and COVID-19 testing. Make sure you check in with your team frequently to ensure their needs and concerns are addressed.

Find a simple way to record compliance with vaccine mandates

As more local and state governments push for mandatory vaccines, it becomes essential for employers to find an easy way to manage compliance with new regulations.

To make sure that you can keep track of your team members who are vaccinated, you can use your workforce management platform to simply upload proof of vaccination. If your employees are still waiting for their vaccination appointment, you can ask them to get an antigen test frequently to keep your work environment safe and healthy.

Require negative tests before clocking in

If you decide to implement a mandatory COVID testing policy to reduce safety concerns in your workplace, a pre-shift questionnaire can be a simple way for staff to verify that they’ve had a COVID test and received a negative result.

According to the CDC, the incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days, and recommending regular antigen tests can be a great way to keep track of any new cases at work.

Minimize exposure by social distancing

It’s been over a year since your staff has created new customer journeys throughout your store for customers to be six feet apart while they’re assisted. For the safety and health of your team, you can also make sure that your employees are at a distance as well.

If your break room only allows for three people socially distanced, place three chairs in the room so it’s clear for your employees to be responsible about your health policies. You can also have floor markers below your espresso bar so baristas don’t accidentally get too close during the morning rush.

Improve ventilation

You don’t need to make expensive renovations to your store to improve its airflow. Open windows, doors, and turn on fans with HEPA filters. Ventilation in a building impacts virus transmission, and doing so will increase the air that’s exchanged indoors and decrease the likelihood of infection in your work environment.

Decide when to require masks

Research shows that wearing a face mask can slow the spread of COVID-19. And research also shows that even fully vaccinated people can carry transmissible levels of the virus. You don’t want to lock your store down again. Though many may feel adverse to wear a mask after being vaccinated, look after your staff and instate a mask rule to continue to operate your business safely.

Many retail shops and restaurants require wearing a mask indoors. If you also operate indoors, you may want to consider having both your staff and employees wear masks inside too.

Be prepared

The workforce needs to move quickly to keep track of workers that are vaccinated or participating in regular COVID-19 testing. Continue to be creative, flexible, and adaptive in your approaches to keep your team — and your customers — safe.

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