OSHA Vaccine Mandate: What You Need to Know

            I got my COVID booster last week and a flu shot to boot. I feel like maybe I should get through the winter without even a cough. But we’ll see.
            The 490 page federal vaccine mandate that came out last week doesn’t really affect me directly. But it will affect many of you directly. And of course there will be indirect effects like labor market impacts, supply bottlenecks, and hopefully (finally) a squashing of the virus to manageable levels.
            Not to say that it is not manageable in Connecticut yet, because it appears to be. Still, there are enough folks out there who remain extra vigilant against a virus that has, for the most part, been brought to its knees in Connecticut. That vigilance is impacting our ability to get the economy back to the full-blown roar it was at before the pandemic hit us.  
            So now, as the eye of the storm heads out to sea, we are faced with a 490-page “temporary standard” issued by OSHA that mandates vaccinations for most private employees that work for employers with 100 or more workers. The mandate goes into effect on January 4 after being pushed back by a month.
            The standard requires covered employers to take a few important steps in order to comply with the mandate.
            First, employers have to put a written mandatory vaccination policy in place within 30 days. Smart and prepared employers will also be ready with forms to give to employees seeking either a religious or a medical accommodation. Those employers with union employees will have to be ready to discuss the impacts of the mandate on those bargaining units.
            The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) will require covered employers to provide employees with information about the ETS, including information about policies and procedures along with information about the safety and benefits associated with the vaccine. Further information includes notice about anti-discrimination and retaliation and notices regarding criminal penalties for providing false information.
            Employers are required by the ETS to determine the vaccination status of employees. The ETS provides employers with various ways of accomplishing this task.
            If an employee will require a vaccination, the employer will be required to grant the employee sufficient paid time off to get the vaccine. Under the ETS, four hours to obtain two shots is deemed reasonable. The employer cannot deduct this paid leave from other available leave time, like sick or vacation, that the employee has accrued.
Paid sick leave must also be provided to employees to recover from the side effects associated with the vaccination.  In order to comply with the requirement of paid leave time to recover from vaccine side effects, employers can require the employee to use their own personal sick, personal, or vacation leave for the purpose. OSHA has determined that two paid leave days for each shot is reasonable in order to allow a full recovery.
Employers will also be required to provide records regarding the vaccination status of work staff within 24 hours of request. It will therefore be important for an employer to have that information regularly updated and available in swift fashion.

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