What to know about the new OSHA vaccine mandate, and how it will impact you

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The new rules cover most of the US workforce.

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The Biden administration’s new workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandate is expected to affect nearly 100 million American workers, under a sweeping new plan that labels the coronavirus as an occupational hazard in the workplace.

Here’s what to know about the new rules implemented by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and how it may affect you.

Will the Vaccine Mandate apply to me?

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Most likely, as predicted the regulation will cover most of the country’s workforce. There are four types of employees who are covered under some sort of mandate: federal employees, federal contractors, health care workers and anyone employed by a company with 100 or more employees.

Federal employees are required to take the shot by November 22. Private sector employees have time till January 4.

Some workers also have the option of being tested weekly for the virus instead, but this only applies to people in the private sector who do not work in the federal government or health care facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you work at a large company that is covered under a federal rule, it will be up to your employer to decide whether you will be given the option to test weekly and wear a mask instead.

Firms that do not comply can be fined $14,000 per violation, and health care facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals may lose access to Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

What if I work remotely?

If you work remote full-time, your company is not required to mandate vaccines or weekly tests. But the mandate applies even if you go to the office or workplace only occasionally.

Keep in mind, your employer may require vaccinations anyway, as is the duration of employment. Some businesses, including some hospitals, have already done this.

Private businesses can also decide against opting for a test allowed under federal regulation.

What if I work at a franchise outpost of a large company?

If the number of employees on your site is less than 100, and as long as the franchise location you work in is independently owned and operated, you will not be covered by the mandate.

Corporate employees at the headquarters of the company and employees at other franchise sites will be counted separately.

For example, if you work at an independently owned local gym that only has 50 employees, you won’t be included in the mandate — even if that gym is part of a larger, nationwide chain.

Wouldn’t this hurt the trucking industry before the holidays?

Probably not, as the rule exempts people who do the work themselves. Truck drivers who drive alone in their cabs will not be at risk of exposure.

The Truckload Carriers Association initially warned that the rule would “undoubtedly ensure that the trucking industry loses a substantial number of drivers.” But the group issued a new statement Friday after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh explained that the rule does not apply only to workers in their trucks. The group said his comments were “encouraging” and that it will “continue to monitor this situation.”

It is possible that the rollout of the new rules could create some bottlenecks in the still growing supply chain issues that the country is witnessing. But economists have expressed hope that as the pandemic subsides, these problems will be temporary and less frequent. Meanwhile, vaccination has been effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths, which in turn helps the overall job market and economy.

What about the impact on other businesses like retail?

For other industries, the impact of regulation remains to be seen. Because the rule for the private sector will not take effect until January 4, the Biden administration says it is unlikely to cause problems before the holiday season.

Still, businesses will have to prepare to implement a vaccine validation program during the busy shopping season.

It is also possible that some workers with fanatical views on the vaccine will attempt to exit the job market to await regulation. As a temporary emergency standard, this is expected to end eventually, although the government has yet to say when that might happen.

Some business executives have argued that a broader vaccine mandate could actually help “level the playing field”. If every company is required to make vaccinations mandatory, it makes it harder for workers to jump jobs to avoid getting the shot. Proponents of the regulation also argue that while a vocal minority of workers oppose it, most Americans will eventually comply.

While once a touchy topic in the private sector, recent data has actually indicated that most companies plan to have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for their employees, separate from federal regulations.

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