OSHA issues vaccination rule for private-sector businesses: 9 things to know

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued an emergency temporary standard Nov. 4 outlining COVID-19 vaccination requirements for employers with 100 or more employees.

Nine things to know:

1. The standard is expected to cover 84 million private-sector workers and two-thirds of the U.S. private-sector workforce. 

2. OSHA said businesses covered by the standard must put in place a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work.

3. Under the standard, employers also must provide paid time off to workers to get inoculated and provide paid leave to employees to recover from any side effects.

4. Other requirements in the standard include determining the vaccination status of each employee and requiring workers to provide an acceptable proof of vaccination status, including whether they are fully or partially vaccinated. OSHA said employers must ensure workers who aren't fully vaccinated are tested at least weekly (if the individual is in the workplace at least once weekly) or within seven days before returning to work (if the individual is away from the workplace for a week or more).

5. Additionally, the agency said, employers must ensure, in most circumstances, that employees who aren't fully vaccinated wear a face covering when indoors or when in a vehicle with another person for work purposes.

6. OSHA is not requiring employers to pay for testing, although the agency said they may be required to do so to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements, or other collectively negotiated agreements. OSHA is also not requiring employers to pay for face coverings.

7. OSHA released the emergency temporary standard on the same day that CMS issued an emergency regulation that requires vaccination for more than 17 million healthcare workers at Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals and in other healthcare settings. President Joe Biden unveiled his administration's multipronged pandemic approach Sept. 9, which included these requirements. 

8. The standard for private-sector businesses is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Nov. 5. The standard is effective immediately upon that publication, and employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication. Download the unpublished version here.

9. OSHA said the standard for private sector businesses also serves as a proposal for rulemaking for a final standard, and the agency is seeking comment on the standard. During a media call Nov. 4, OSHA said it will consider extending the standard to smaller companies during rulemaking.

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