Mention new COVID-19 lockdown and most people say, “that’s not going to happen again.” I tend to agree. While Delta variant cases are up in most states, new mask and vaccine mandates and proof of vaccination requirements are likely to keep businesses open across the country. Still, it remains to be seen.
In July, President Biden announced vaccine mandates for federal government workers and asked the private sector to follow the administration’s lead. The government’s latest plan calls for workers in health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement to receive the shot. Another requisite is for large employers to have their workers fully vaccinated or prove that they test negative every week.
Mandates like these seem to be working. For example, Tyson Foods increased its workforce vaccination rate from 45% to 72% once they put a requirement in place. United Airlines just announced that more than 97% of their employees have received the shot leading up to the company’s mandatory vaccination deadline of September 27th.
While the numbers are encouraging, no one is certain what’s around the corner. For one, there’s the MU variant which has been detected in 40 countries. In the U.S. it is believed to account for only a small fraction of new infections, at least for now. But it does have scientists wondering if MU can evade vaccine efficacy. It is too soon to know, but the news creates the kind of angst none of us needs at the moment.
The idea of a vaccine-resistant mutation is growing, and it’s one that must be closely monitored and considered, especially for companies that have brought employees back to the worksite.
What to do now?
HR contingency planning
Given the current labor market and the ever-changing virus, her are four key issues to contemplate:
1. First and foremost, it’s essential to have the pulse of your employee population. There’s a lot at stake including your company culture, employee morale and retention of your talent. If COVID-19 worsens, do you know if your employees will want to come to the workplace? Will they be willing to go to events and see clients, and what’s their comfort level with that?
Can you accommodate individuals who are ill at ease with in-person interactions and communicate that amongst your team so there’s no dissention among your employees? How do you balance the needs of those who want to come to the workplace and those who don’t?
2. The next step is understanding your clients and their requirements. It’s as simple as knowing their policies regarding vaccinations and as complex as identifying how they feel about your team members and the need to see them in-person.
3. Another critical factor is gathering information about who is vaccinated and who isn’t. That must be done in a HIPAA compliant way, keeping the information private and gaining employee consent to share the information with others. It’s complicated. If you don’t have the right process in place, you can have a potential issue on your hands, even if you think you are doing the right thing. While trying to satisfy your clients, you also have an obligation to protect your employees.
It’s a delicate balancing act.
4. If you do business beyond the borders of your state, you’ll want to keep an eye on COVID-19 conditions there. Even if we’re not in lockdown, there could be travel restrictions including quarantining after traveling. Your business will need to abide by different guidelines in different states. This will impact team members who live elsewhere and need to come to the worksite, those traveling to a client, or leaving the country for some reason.
The bottom line: while the COVID-19 situation is looking more promising locally as increasing numbers of individuals get vaccinated, new mutations can change everything—including perceptions and feelings—and it can happen quickly. Now is the time for strategizing HR with the help of an expert advisor like NEMR Total HR.