Right now, it’s a wait-and-see for the exact wording in an emergency temporary standard from the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding President Joe Biden’s proposed workplace Covid-19 vaccination mandate.
Official wording has not yet arrived, though OSHA has reportedly submitted its emergency temporary standard to the Office of Management and Budget. However, the vaccine requirement is raising questions at staffing firms on what the effects will be. And many large client companies are already requesting vaccinated employees.
Biden announced the mandate last month. He called for the US Department of Labor to develop an emergency rule requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to either make sure their workers are vaccinated against Covid-19 or that unvaccinated employees show a negative Covid test at least weekly.
The staffing industry will be affected, says Tracy Smith, president/CEO of Taylor Smith Consulting, a staffing firm based in Houston.
Smith says companies that have not had to deal with compliance regulations or with medical records will have a learning curve in complying with laws in this area, especially with regulations over privacy. Many firms will have to update administrative processes.
The regulation will also impact the cost of services, she says.
“On the recruiting side, there’s going to be an impact for recruitment services,” Smith says. Some client companies may request that all employees be vaccinated and the responsibility for tracking could be on staffing firms.
Testing for those who are unvaccinated also raises questions. Who will pay for the testing? How will time off be scheduled for workers?
Smith says she hasn’t heard concerns from workers themselves and notes that immunization requirements are already common for certain industries such as education and for some medical facility positions.
Smith’s company is also in Texas, where the governor recently issued an order prohibiting vaccine requirements. She says her company will comply with mandates that are applicable to their state and city and notes that compliance is important.
“Once the dust settles and final decisions are made, we will certainly follow suit,” she says.
Jason Leverant, president and COO of the AtWork Group, a staffing franchisor, also says it’s difficult to gauge the exact impact of the mandate without the final wording. Though he also cites concerns.
One is that the infrastructure for mass testing of people for Covid-19 doesn’t appear to be in place for weekly testing of those who are not vaccinated. This will be a particular challenge for areas with relatively low vaccination rates. Will testing facilities be able to handle the influx of demand? Will enough kits be available for testing at home?
The mandate also raises the question of who will be responsible for tracking worker Covid tests and who is vaccinated? Will OSHA make staffing buyers responsible or will staffing firms be responsible?
Also, who will be responsible for paying for testing?
“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach, but also taking steps to comply,” Leverant says. They are looking at solutions to solve potential problems of the mandate so AtWork’s offices are prepared in the eventuality that mandate does go into force.
The American Staffing Association is also waiting to see what the emergency temporary standards requirements include and has not yet taken a formal position on it, Stephen Dwyer, senior VP, chief legal and operating officer, told SIA.
In the meantime, many large companies are taking action.
Client companies are now starting to request that only vaccinated workers be sent, says Monte Block, president and CEO of Rotator Staffing Services and Medical Staffing Services. The requests have picked up in the past few weeks after the proposed mandate was announced and come from both healthcare and nonhealthcare companies such as industrial and technical firms.
“Big corporations over 100 people, they are being very aggressive,” Block says. “They don’t want to be a super spreader they don’t want to be the front page of the paper.”
Right now, it’s the majority of companies that are requiring vaccinated workers, he says.
For nonvaccinated workers, Block says his firm works to find remote positions. However, he doesn’t question the reasons of people who are not vaccinated. It’s a yes or no question.
On the other side of the coin, Block also has a medical staffing company and he has been partnering with other firms to meet soaring demand for healthcare professionals during Covid, including a deal for vaccination staffing in the state of New York in a contract led by The Tempositions Group of Companies.
Vaccination sites require teams of people that include nurse evaluators, vaccinators who are registered nurses or individuals who are certified to deliver shots, medical assistants for data entry, pharmacists to control the inventory of vaccine, and emergency medical technicians or paramedics to oversee people during the 15- to 30-minute waiting period after receiving the vaccine.
Jobs website Adzuna released data that more than 60,000 US jobs ads in September explicitly required job seekers to be vaccinated against Covid, up from 50,700 in August and 35,000 in July.
The top industries requiring vaccination are healthcare and nursing, 23,700 jobs; IT, 10,900 jobs; hospitality and catering, 5,300 jobs; social work, 4,200 jobs; and engineering, 3,200 jobs.
“US employers are becoming increasingly vocal about Covid-19 vaccination policies to try and attract new staff amid the talent shortage,” said Andrew Hunter, co-founder and economist at Adzuna. “This includes more US companies mandating vaccination against Covid-19 for new and existing employees, particularly in front-line sectors such as healthcare & nursing and hospitality & catering, where job ads requiring a vaccine have risen sharply.”
Aaron Goldstein, a labor and employment partner at law firm Dorsey& Whitney, says he is getting flooded with questions from employers on the mandate — including from firms in Texas.
However, the Texas rule will likely get challenged as outside the powers granted to the governor or be preempted by the OSHA rule when it gets released, he says.
“It’s hard to see how the [Texas Governor’s] executive order holds up. The executive order was issued under the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, which grants the governor and state and local agencies certain powers to ‘reduce vulnerability of people and communities of this state to damage, injury and loss of life and property resulting from natural or man-made catastrophes, riots, or hostile military or paramilitary action,” Goldstein says. “A ban on vaccine mandates hardly seems to fit that purpose. In fact, it is arguably contrary to that purpose.”