TRENDICATORS SPECIAL REPORT

Preparing For The Vaccine Mandate

What You Need to Know: Return to Office Logistics, Delta Variant Facts, Creating a Safer Workplace and Recognizing Positive Behaviors

SITUATION AT A GLANCE

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INTRODUCTION

President Biden’s September 9 announcement of a national vaccination mandate took the country by surprise. Many large employers, including Walmart, Uber, Google, Goldman Sachs and Chevron, already had vaccine mandate plans in place. Others planned to encourage but not require vaccination. While many uncertainties exist and legal challenges are inevitable, all organizations with 100 or more employees need to begin preparing for how they will comply. This report provides an overview of the steps your organization needs to consider to avoid confusion and disruption on your road to recovery from the pandemic.

DISCLAIMER: This report contains questions, insights, recommendations and resources for consideration in the development of programs to prepare for the soon-to-be-released Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The content in this report is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive and does not represent a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that all programs and policies developed for ETS compliance be reviewed by a legal professional prior to implementation.

Trendicators is the research division of Engage2Excel Group, a leading provider of employee recruitment, recognition, and survey and analytics solutions. Trendicators provides original research, along with reports on insights and best practices from industry leaders and experts.

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Faced with a surge in COVID-19 cases from the Delta variant and reductions in job growth and consumer confidence, the Biden administration set forth a sweeping vaccine mandate that will require organizations with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID test at least once a week. The table below summarizes what is currently known about the program, based on a recent report from The New York Times. The program will fall under an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Still unknown, however, is when the mandate will take effect, what the exact provisions of the order will be and whether the employer must pay for testing.

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Employers with 100 or more workers are scrambling to prepare for the forthcoming vaccination and testing mandate. Everyone is waiting to hear when the ETS will take effect, and experts suggest that the order may not be issued for another 30 to 60 days. While a great many uncertainties exist, such as what types of tests will be required, whether employers will be required to collect proof of vaccination and how remote workers will be affected, you can take steps to prepare. The recommendations and insights below, gathered from publicly available sources, are intended only as a guide for initial planning discussions. All programs and policies developed for ETS compliance should be reviewed by a legal professional before implementation.

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The Delta variant is a highly contagious SARS­CoV-2 virus strain first identified in India in December 2020. It has now become the predominant variant in the U.S. After a steady decline in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, Delta has caused a spike in infections and an increase in hospitalizations across the country. In August, the number of COVID hospitalizations surpassed 100,000 for the first time since January.

 

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Many leading business and trade organizations have expressed support for the vaccine mandate. However, opposition along political lines is widespread, despite the existence of mandatory vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella as a condition of school attendance in every state.

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Approximately 93 million Americans who are eligible have yet to get vaccinated. These are the people who are most vulnerable to the highly contagious Delta variant. Employers need to understand the concerns of individuals who have yet to make a vaccination appointment. The unvaccinated generally fall into two groups: those who are adamantly opposed to coronavirus vaccination based on political or religious beliefs and those who have been putting it off or want to wait and see before making a decision. Many HR organizations are launching health ambassador programs to listen to employee concerns and provide facts about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccinations.

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While vaccination, masking and social distancing remain the first line of defense against COVID-19, ventilation improvements in workplaces are essential to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Most newer buildings rely on HVAC systems that use a combination of air filters and outdoor air to dilute and remove viral particles and other pollutants. Before the pandemic, many buildings used MERV 8 filters, which allow for comfort and energy efficiency but aren’t designed for infection control. New industry guidelines advise buildings to upgrade to at least MERV 13 filters, which trap 85% or more of risky particles. Experts recommend wariness of emerging technologies, such as needlepoint bipolar ionization, that claim to remove viruses from the air because they have not undergone peer-reviewed studies and may generate potentially harmful bi-products indoors.

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Workers in the U.S. are stressed out. According to a March 2021 survey of employees by The Conference Board, 59% ranked mental and psychological wellbeing among their top three concerns. Managers play a vital role in addressing this problem. A nationwide Trendicators survey of employees in late 2020 revealed what employees want most and least from their managers. Below, these survey insights are translated into practical advice for managers by Dr. Jack Wiley, Engage2Excel’s Chief Scientific Officer.

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As with all change management initiatives, recognizing positive behaviors associated with your updated COVID-19 program is critical for maximizing success across your entire workforce. While traditional employee recognition programs have focused on tenure and exceptional achievements, the pandemic has heightened the need for more frequent recognition of positive behaviors and everyday accomplishments. The following are examples of programs to consider when updating your recognition strategy.

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