Your Clients Must Prepare for Changes in Emergency Temporary Standard to Vaccine Mandate

The emergency temporary standard (ETS) that went into effect on Sept. 9, 2021, required that employees of private sector companies with 100 or more workers (including federal contractors and health care professionals), must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022. If you’re an insurance professional with commercial business clients, it is important that they know the facts and prepare.

Recently, on Nov. 4, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an unpublished update to the ETS aimed at protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19 while on the job. Under this revised standard, employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work. The ETS is effective immediately and requires employers to comply with most requirements within 30 days of the Nov. 4 ETS publication update and testing requirements within 60 days of publication.

The following are key dates and information that, as of the publication of this article, your employer clients need to know.

Key dates:

  • Effective Dec. 5, 2021, all unvaccinated employees must wear a mask while on the job.
  • Employees have until Jan. 4, 2022, to become fully vaccinated. After that date, all unvaccinated employees must undergo a weekly COVID-19 test.

Specific requirements of employers:

  • Employers must check the vaccination status of each employee. This requires obtaining acceptable proof of vaccination status and maintaining records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
  • Employers must ensure that each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within seven days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • In most circumstances, the employer must ensure that each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
  • Employees are required to provide immediate notice to their employer when testing positive for COVID-19 or when they have received a COVID-19 diagnosis. At that time, employers must remove the employee from the workplace regardless of vaccination status and not allow them to return to work until they meet the required criteria.
  • The ETS does not require employers to pay for employee testing or face masks. However, they may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements or other collectively negotiated agreements. Employers are also not required to pay for face coverings.

Updates to the ETS haven’t been well received by everyone. As of Nov. 6, at least 27 states have opposed the ETS mandate in federal court, with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocking the Department of Labor’s OSHA vaccine mandate for larger employers.

Conclusion

Most experts anticipate that a court ruling to the mandate will be made closer to the compliance deadlines. In the meantime, it is important for your business clients to stay updated on federal court cases and be prepared to implement the ETS until a final ruling is made.

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