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  • What You Can Do to Prepare Your Business for the New Vaccination Order

    On Sept. 9, President Biden instructed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue a rule requiring large employers — those with 100 or more employees — to mandate that employees get vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created OSHA to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Under the OSH Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace.

    President Biden said mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, and providing the guidelines for it, would fall under OSHA’s oversight. This makes vaccinations a work safety issue versus a health mandate. OSHA does have the right to issue rulings for businesses in the United States related to providing safe and healthy workplaces.

    Prior to the pandemic, there was hesitation to mandate vaccinations in the work environment due to Americans With Disabilities Act restrictions. However, the U.S. EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has updated guidelines granting permission to mandate vaccines with two exemptions, as a condition of employment.

    Watch for more information to come with the OSHA guidelines that will be issued soon.

    What can you do to prepare your business?
    Although there are many things we don’t yet know, here are three things you can do now.

    Think about your approach. Ultimately, all large employers will have to ensure their workers get vaccinated, with certain exceptions. We are waiting for the rules from OSHA to have a better understanding of how the exceptions will work.

    A general best practice for all employers is to determine if the mandatory order will apply to your business — and, if not, whether you as an employer will choose to follow it. There are many factors to consider that may be specific to your business and employees, so taking the time now to give them thought and develop a plan will help you be prepared for questions from employees and any actions you have decided to take.

    Communicate with your employees. If you choose to require your employees to be vaccinated, even if it isn’t necessary for your business to do so under the new vaccination order, continue to talk with your employees. Educating them on virus prevention procedures (e.g., masks, social distancing, clean work areas) and providing information on vaccine efficacy will help. Communication and education are critical, and you can help your employees keep themselves, their families and their colleagues safe.

    Consider the tax credit. Did you know that, as an employer, if you want to give time off to your employees to get a COVID-19 vaccination shot, you can do so and receive a credit for your business? The American Rescue Plan states, effective April 1 through Sept. 30, 2021, that an employer could allow time off for an employee to get a vaccination shot and take advantage of paying the employee while receiving a credit on a 941 quarterly tax return. Employers must have a record of the vaccination and when the employee received it to get credit, and there is no cost to the business to offer this benefit to employees.

    Viruses, like COVID-19, are here to stay. How we manage through these times to keep everyone as healthy as possible will provide us with lessons that can be applied to future (hopefully nonpandemic) situations.

    About the Author:

    Mary Smith, SHRM-SCP, is HR and Payroll Manager for CB Smith & Associates and its clients. Her human resource strengths are in employee performance improvement and processes that boost work functions. That can include developing ways to streamline work flows, helping develop policies to reduce employee dissatisfaction, creating training programs to improve work skills, employee coaching and helping owners /managers understand HR functions that help their business. She also has a strong background in creating compensation/reward systems, training programs and performance review programs. 

    Chris Smith | 09/17/2021

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