While most employers have felt the impact of COVID-19, manufacturers have been especially hard hit—particularly when it comes to labor shortages, absence management, and employee retention. The executive order signed by President Biden on September 9, 2021, requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations or the option of weekly testing, adds yet another layer of complexity to challenges employers are already faced with.
OSHA has been tasked with developing the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that will provide guidance related to how employers are to implement the executive order. It was submitted to the White House on October 12. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has up to 90 days to complete its review or send it back to OSHA for revision.
Although the attorneys general of 24 states have opposed the executive order on the grounds that it is illegal, the four core states that MRA serves—Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—are not among those states. Covered employers should begin to prepare now based on what we do know:
- Check with state laws to determine if there are any additional requirements, restrictions or exclusions, tools, or partnerships that might be leveraged in implementing vaccinations or testing. For example, the state of Minnesota has developed a COVID-19 Vaccine Employer Toolkit.
- Survey employees on their vaccination status to determine how many tests may be needed.
- Determine if your state allows onsite testing or at-home testing, and if you will provide the tests or if your employees will be responsible for purchasing them. If choosing onsite testing, secure a vendor that is available for all shifts.
- Locate testing and vaccination sites that reduce time away from work.
- Develop a vaccination tracking system that ensures accuracy and confidentiality.
- Update your paid time off/leave policies for vaccination time, vaccination recovery, testing, and related medical leave.
If your organization is considering onsite testing, vaccinations, or both, ensure that your policy and plan are consistent with any requirements of the ETS, once it is released, as well as state, federal, local, or tribal laws.
- Review your enforcement policy with managers and all members of your human resources team to ensure it is reasonable and will be applied consistently.
- Provide training on the protocols in the event of a positive test.
- Consult your worker’s compensation and short-term disability provider to understand what qualifies as a claim and how it will be processed.
- Prepare communication so employees understand the requirements of testing, reporting vaccination status, and confidentiality.
MRA is closely monitoring OSHA for the release of the ETS and will provide updates and resources to help you stay compliant.