Biden’s Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate: What are the Potential Effects on American Businesses?

Lauren Gonzalez – The Covid-19 pandemic is officially the deadliest pandemic in American history. As a result, President Joe Biden recently unveiled the country’s first national Covid-19 vaccine mandate. On one hand, Biden’s executive order will likely boost American vaccination rates. On the other hand, the mandate will likely face backlash among businesses. 

On September 9, 2021 President Joe Biden announced his Path Out of the Pandemic: Covid 19 Action Plan. As part of that plan, Biden signed Executive Order Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. The order applies to any individual who is “in connection with” or working on covered contracts. In many instances, the mandate also applies to individuals working at a federal contractor’s workplace, even if the individuals do not themselves work on or “in connection with” a federal contract.

Under the order, federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to conform to several workplace safety protocols. The protocols require COVID-19 vaccinations of covered contractor employees, compliance by covered contractor employees and visitors with masking and physical distancing rules while in the workplace, and designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

On November 4 2021, further details about the 19 Action Plan were announced. The Biden administration issued an emergency temporary standard mandating either vaccination of employees or at least weekly testing of non-vaccinated employees. This standard applies to businesses with 100 or more employees and is expected to cover over 84 million workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to ensure that their workers are either fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by January or participate in weekly testing. Companies must also pay workers for the time taken to be vaccinated and provide sick leave for any side effects caused by the vaccine. Any individual who does not wish to receive the vaccination must wear face coverings on the job effective on December 5.

The vaccine mandate will likely be considered a positive step in combating the Covid-19 pandemic. As to the businesses affected by the mandate, many will likely feel relieved. Many businesses may have wanted to require workers to receive the vaccine, but were fearful of alienating or losing employees to businesses that didn’t impose mandates. However, several businesses expressed concern about President Biden’s mandate. Businesses fear that the January 4 deadline will impose too heavy burden a on them as they rush to meet the implementation deadline during the busy holiday season. Businesses may also fear that this will cause some of their workers to quit their jobs and go to smaller businesses that are not covered by the vaccine mandate. The National Retail Federation fears the mandate may disrupt the economy and “exacerbate the preexisting workforce shortage.” Lastly, businesses may worry that they cannot withstand the added costs that come with complying with the mandate. OSHA estimates the total costs to employers to be about $3 billion.

The emergency temporary standard is set in effect for six months. After that period has elapsed, OSHA must replace it with a permanent standard. Given that some courts, such as the federal appeals court in New Orleans, have suspended Biden’s emergency temporary rule, it is unclear whether the vaccine mandate will be replaced with a permanent standard. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it an emergence of uncertainty in many aspects of life. As to the effects of Biden’s vaccine mandate, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the mandate’s potential impacts on businesses and its overall effectiveness.

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