- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a rule implementing a new temporary emergency standard requiring all employers with at least 100 employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, or require any unvaccinated workers to have a negative test result weekly before coming into work, according to a White House statement.
- Separately, President Joe Biden will sign Thursday an executive order requiring all federal executive branch workers to get vaccinated, and this standard would be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government.
- OSHA's temporary standard also will require covered employers to provide paid time off for the time it takes workers to get vaccinated, or to recover from post-vaccination side effects, the White House said.
The Biden administration's latest push to get workers vaccinated follows a series of appeals to those who are unvaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration's approval of the two-dose mRNA vaccine produced by Pfizer and BioNTech gave many employers confidence to implement mandates. After an Aug. 24 press briefing in which he cited the FDA's decision as a sign that "now is the time" for businesses and other entities to require vaccination, Biden once again referenced the agency's approval during a televised address Thursday evening.
"My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: what more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?" he asked. "We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us."
Consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found in a mid-August survey of 961 employers that more than half could have some type of vaccination requirement in place by the end of 2021's fourth quarter.
But not all employers or industries have universally moved to adopt mandates. A report last month by law firm Littler Mendelson found that those in the manufacturing, retail and hospitality industries were least likely to require COVID-19 vaccines, with common concerns including resistance from employees, loss of staff and impacts on culture and morale.
Facing a labor shortage, some companies have designed policies to avoid alienating potential workers. Amazon and Walmart both require vaccines for corporate employees, but not for workers in warehouses or on store floors. Both companies have instead offered monetary incentives for frontline workers to convince them to get the shot.
The National Association of Manufacturers said in a statement that getting more Americans vaccinated will "reduce hospitalizations and save lives," but it also expressed concerns around "compliance costs" that could come with the new mandate.
"We look forward to working with the administration to ensure any vaccine requirements are structured in a way that does not negatively impact the operations of manufacturers that have been leading through the pandemic to keep Americans safe," according to the statement. "It is important that undue compliance costs do not burden manufacturers, large and small alike."
Supply Chain Dive associate editor Sarah Zimmerman contributed to this story.
Correction: A previous version misstated the size of the business required to comply with the mandate. It applies to firms with 100 or more employees.