“Our patience is running thin,” US president Joe Biden famously told unvaccinated Americans last month after announcing that he would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for large private employers. Today (Nov. 4), OSHA released the full text of the rule.
Under the new requirements, companies with more than 100 employees will be obligated to request proof of vaccination or to test employees weekly for Covid-19 as a condition of employment. Failure to comply with the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) will lead to fines of up to $14,000 per violation for companies, and likely public shaming.
Biden has also strengthened an existing mandate for federal employees and contractors, who have until Dec. 8 to get vaccinated or give up their jobs. Weekly testing will not be an option.
OSHA’s vaccine mandate rules
Here are some of the key facts about the ETS for private-sector employers:
- The new rule takes effect Jan. 4. By that day, employees must be fully vaccinated or face weekly testing. Anyone who tests positive must leave the workplace immediately.
- Unvaccinated workers who choose to get tested weekly must wear masks on the job at all times.
- The ETS will not apply to remote workers or people who work outdoors exclusively.
- Part-time employees and temporary or seasonal workers (not employed through a staffing agency) will be counted as part of the 100-employee threshold. (See FAQs about the scope of the rule here.)
- Staffing agencies with 100 or more employees must comply with the new ETS.
- Employers will be required to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects, though they can put the cost of weekly testing onto employees.
- Workers can apply for religious or medical exemptions.
- Workplaces must begin offering time off for vaccination and start enforcing mask rules beginning Dec. 5.