9/10/2021 Update: Yesterday, the Biden administration announced plans to expand COVID-19 vaccine/testing requirements.
- Businesses With 100 or More Employees – OSHA is tasked with creating a rule that requires businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure each employee is fully vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.
- All Federal Contractors – Based upon the administration’s announcement, all federal contractors (not just those onsite) will be required to ensure employees working on or in connection with a federal contract are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Unlike the protocols released in July, the new protocols are not expected to provide a testing alternative. According to the Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is responsible for issuing new COVID-19 safety guidance for federal contractors by September 24th.
Late last month, the Biden administration announced new COVID-19 safety protocols for federal employees and onsite contractors. While implementation details are still pending, below is an overview of what federal contractors can expect, based upon administration statements and published model safety principles.
New COVID-19 Safety Protocols for Federal Employees & Contractors
- Federal employees and onsite contractors must sign an attestation confirming their vaccination status. Unless agencies have an existing system, they should have employees and onsite contractors complete this Certification of Vaccination form.
- Federal employees and onsite contractors that do not provide a signed attestation regarding their vaccination status must follow safety protocols for unvaccinated individuals.
- Unvaccinated federal employees and onsite contractors (or those who have not provided their vaccination status) must:
- Wear a mask on the job regardless of geographic location or community transmission level.
- Physically distance from all other employees and visitors.
- Comply with weekly or twice weekly COVID-19 testing, which will involve enrolling in the agency’s testing program or showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result from within the previous 3 days before entry to a federal building or federally controlled indoor worksite.
- Follow government-wide restrictions on official travel.
- The administration is looking into applying the above protocols to all federal contractors.
- The administration is encouraging all private sector employers to use these COVID-19 safety protocols.
The new requirements are part of the administration’s efforts to increase vaccination rates and combat the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant. While the safety protocols stop short of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, the announcement follows the release of a DOJ opinion that states public or private entities are not prohibited from requiring vaccines that are subject to emergency use authorization.
What Should Federal Contractors Do?
It is important to note, full implementation details have yet to be established and will vary by agency. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force was created to provide federal agencies guidance on maintaining employee safety and agency operation throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This taskforce released COVID-19 workplace safety plans that agencies can use as a basis for their own customized plans. The document, COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles, was updated on July 29, 2021 to incorporate the administration’s latest COVID-19 related actions.
According to the updated workplace safety guidance, agencies are responsible for establishing a program to test employees and onsite contractors who are not vaccinated or do not provide vaccination status. The Safer Federal Work Force FAQ states that agencies can require proof of a timely negative COVID-19 test as an alternative to conducting onsite testing.
Companies that have onsite federal contractors should check with each of their customer agencies. Federal agencies should maintain a webpage with COVID-19 related information that includes their COVID-19 workplace safety plan. Contractors should set up a process for monitoring updates to the COVID-19 plans for their customer agencies. While contractors await the release of updated safety plans from individual agencies, they can prepare by reviewing:
- The latest COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Agency Model Safety Principles; and
- The FAQ’s detailed here (specifically the new FAQs under the testing and vaccinations).