With Delta variant infections on the rise, the Biden administration recently announced that “every federal government employee and onsite contractor will be asked to attest to their vaccination status,” and that anyone who “does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”
Sounds Simple, But Is It?
To help carry out this new policy, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force recently published Agency Model Safety Principles for executive departments and agencies for their COVID-19 safety plans. Some of the highlights of the Agency Model Safety Principles provide that:
- “Federal agencies need to ask about the vaccination status of Federal employees and onsite contractors—employees and onsite contractors must sign an attestation confirming their vaccination status, or they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for purposes of safety protocols.”
- Federal agencies must “establish a program to test not fully vaccinated Federal employees and onsite contractors weekly or twice-weekly.”
- “Fully vaccinated Federal employees and onsite contractors do not need to physically distance or participate in weekly screening testing, and are not subject to any Government-wide restrictions on official travel (although agency travel policies still apply).” However, in “areas of high or substantial transmission, they need to wear a mask in public indoor settings in Federal buildings,” but in “areas of low or moderate transmission, they do not need to wear a mask.” (emphasis added)
- “Those Federal employees and onsite contractors who are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination status must wear a mask, physically distance, and comply with a weekly or twice-weekly screening testing requirement, and are subject to Government-wide restrictions on official travel.” These requirements apply whether indoor or outdoor or whether in areas of low, moderate, or high transmission.
- “Employees and onsite contractors must attest to the truthfulness of the response they provide. If an employee or onsite contractor chooses not to provide a response, they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for the purposes of these protocols.”
Who Is Covered?
While the current mandate for federal contractors pertains to employees who work onsite at federal facilities, the White House announced that “President Biden is directing his team to take steps to apply similar standards to all federal contractors.” Employers with federal contracts most likely need to start conforming their policies to the above requirements.
What Does This Mean to Non-Federal Contractors or Employers?
There has been a lot of discussion among employers about the technicalities of imposing a vaccination status mandate. The Agency Model Safety Principles above may be a good starting place to see if such a program is desirable for your workplace.