If your business has 100 or more employees, it will likely be subject to the new vaccination order recently issued by President Biden. On Sept. 9, 2021, he directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a rule that employers with 100 or more employees must require their employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly. Given that OSHA is tasked with assuring safe and healthful working conditions by setting and enforcing standards, and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance, it is the appropriate agency to put forth a rule about vaccines to help promote safe workplaces across the country.
Although the final guidelines have not yet been issued, you can do these things now to help your organization prepare for what is to come.
Think about it. While it’s anticipated that there will be some limited exceptions for large employers, all businesses will not necessarily be required to enforce the mandate. Take some time to think about whether your organization will choose to make vaccines mandatory for employees even if it’s not necessary to do so. The final rule should be issued soon. In the meantime, you can start planning for what resources you may need or what some components of your policy might be.
Keep talking — and listening. Effective communication makes a difference. Regardless of what your business will be required to do, or will choose to do, engage in two-way communication with your employees. In addition to listening to their concerns, provide education from medical and health officials about the virus, how it is spread and how it can be prevented to help keep your employees and their loved ones healthy. Tensions are running high about masks, vaccines and mandates, so developing and maintaining trusted relationships with employees will be important for employee morale, engagement and retention.
Get a tax credit. Whether OSHA requires your organization’s employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, or doing so becomes company policy, your business can get a tax credit on its 941 quarterly tax return due on Oct. 31, 2021. You can receive the credit if your employees got the shot between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2021, and they were given time off with pay to do so, or they became sick right after getting the shot. Work with your employees and keep good records, though. As an employer, you’ll need to maintain records of each employee who got the shot, and when, to be eligible for the tax credit.
It’s not known when the next life-threatening virus will come, or what it will look like — but its arrival, at least, is a certainty. Businesses will have to adjust again. By learning from the current pandemic, employers and the employees who keep their organizations running can be better prepared to handle the next one. Along the way, maybe there will also be some meaningful lessons that aren’t pandemic related, too.
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