medical worker giving a Covid injection

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A COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees will be published in the Federal Register “in the coming days,” a Department of Labor spokesperson told McKnight’s on Monday, relaying that the White House Office of Management and Budget had completed its regulatory review of the emergency temporary standard.

The DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard will require private-sector employers with 100 or more workers — “firm- or company-wide” — to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Alternatively, the standard will require employers to obtain negative COVID-10 test results at least weekly from unvaccinated workers. Employers also will be required to make unvaccinated employees wear masks at work.

The rule also will require covered businesses to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated and paid sick leave to recover from any side effects from vaccination.

OSHA developed the standard at the request of President Biden, who included it in his six-point COVID-19 action plan announced Sept. 9. The final standard takes effect after it is published in the Federal Register. 

The rule reportedly also will allow large companies to pass the costs of testing and personal protective equipment on to those employees who refuse a COVID-19 vaccine. Employers, however, will be required to absorb the testing and mask costs for workers who qualify for vaccine exemptions or if the issue is addressed in a union bargaining agreement, according to a report by Bloomberg Law.

Senior living advocates applauded the requirements when they were first announced in September, saying the mandates would create a consistent standard and give older adults greater protection no matter where they receive care.

Once the mandate goes into effect, employers will need to decide whether to allow for a testing option, how to handle religious or medical accommodation requests, and what effects the mandate may have on the workforce. 

Legal experts expect challenges to the mandate but have said the law is on Biden’s side.

Also pending is a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rule, developed at Biden’s request, that requires workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to implement vaccination and testing protocols. The action builds on a vaccination requirement for nursing homes announced in August.

CMS submitted language for the interim final rule to the OMB within days of the Labor Department’s submission of text of its emergency temporary standard on the private-sector business vaccination mandate.