On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued two Executive Orders aimed at mandating vaccinations for employers across the country. One of the orders was directed toward the Department of Labor, more specifically OSHA. The second focuses on federal employees and contractors and has been created by the Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce (SFWT), led by the COVID-19 Response Team, which was formed to give the heads of federal agencies ongoing guidance on safety matters during the pandemic. On September 24, the SFWT issued an FAQ to outline guidance on vaccination requirements, in addition to encouraging federal agencies to include vaccine requirements into contracts not addressed in the Executive Order.
The following items are included in the FAQ:
- Federal employees covered by Executive Order 14043 must be fully vaccinated no later than November 22, 2021. This means the final shot of any two-dose vaccination will need to be administered no later than November 8, 2021.
- Any person hired after November 22, 2021, will need to be fully vaccinated prior to the first day of service. This includes employees not working directly on or in connection with a covered contract.
- The mandate applies to federal employees and contractors working remotely.
- There is no option to test as an alternative to vaccination; all federal employees and contractors must be fully vaccinated.
- Reasonable accommodations will be allowed for employees demonstrating a need due to a disability or sincerely held religious belief.
- Federal workers will be required to provide proof of their vaccination status, which will be collected and documented by the agency they work for and kept confidential in accordance with the Privacy Act.
- Onsite contractors do not need to show proof of vaccination but will be required to complete a Certification of Vaccination form prior to working on federal sites.
What we don’t know
While the FAQ addresses federal employees and contractors, subcontractors have been intentionally excluded. There is confusion, however, because the Order also states it applies to “any location where an employee is working on or in connection with a covered federal contract.” Further clarification of that point is anticipated.
While the FAQ addresses the requirements for federal employers and contractors on vaccinations, it does not encompass the complete guidance called for in President Biden’s Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.
It is recommended that employers with an organized labor presence make immediate plans to discuss the requirements with employee unions. Early communication will help provide clarity for current contracts the union may be involved in, as well as future contract negotiations. Employers must implement Government-wide policies by the deadline (November 22, 2021), so any bargaining that has not been completed by that date will need to reflect the new guidance.
If you are unsure if you qualify to be covered under this new guidance as a federal contractor, MRA has Federal Contractor General Compliance Information available to help answer your questions. You may also contact the 24/7 HR Hotline at 866-HR-HOTLINE (866.474.6854) or [email protected].