Apple Joins Meta in Requiring Proof of COVID-19 Boosters for Employees
There was a fleeting moment that felt as if the end of the COVID-19 pandemic was approaching, but a recent rise in Omicron cases has shaken up the workforce yet again. While the Supreme Court blocked OSHA's vaccine mandate last week, there are many organizations that are choosing to take a stand with their own vaccination policies. Meta (formerly Facebook) and Apple are among two of the big companies that have released their updated vaccination policies. This begs the question, is this something your company should address too? Here’s what you need to consider before implementing an organization-wide vaccination policy.
Refresher: What Were the Supreme Court’s Vaccine Mandate Decisions?
After several reversals from lower courts, on January 13, the Supreme Court stayed implementation and enforcement of OSHA’s ETS in a 6-3 decision. The Court’s majority opinion explains:
OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.
In other words—although the Court has upheld state-level vaccine mandates in the past—it suggests that Congress has the authority to either impose a federal vaccine mandate for private employers or to authorize Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh to impose such a rule, neither of which it has done.
The Court did, however, uphold the CMS mandate for healthcare workers in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh switching sides to form a majority. The Court—referring to the CMS—writes:
The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.
In other words, the Court suggests Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra is acting within the authority given to him by Congress.
What Do Other Company’s Policies Look Like?
Meta (formerly Facebook) was among one of the first major tech companies to release their vaccination and return to work policy, stating the following:
- Pushed back return to office date to March 28th, 2022.
- Employees must be fully vaccinated and boosted by March 28th, 2022 to work in their US offices.
- Employees have been given three options: return to office in March, delay their return for 3-5 months, or opt to become a full-time remote employee. Employees have till March 14th, 2022 to send their deferral to the company.
The large social media tech company is encouraging employees to do what they think is best for them,
“We’re focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current Covid-19 landscape,” Janelle Gale, Meta’s Vice President of Human Resources, said in a statement. “We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we’re giving more time to choose what works best for them.”
Apple has followed suit by releasing their vaccination policy this last week, stating the following:
- All unvaccinated employees are required to provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test, starting January 24th, 2022.
- If you are eligible for the booster shot, you have four weeks from the date of eligibility to comply and show proof. Employees who dodge the booster shot will be required to do frequent COVID-19 testing before entering retail stores and offices. Details on frequency were not stated.
Vaccine requirements are something Apple has stood behind since last year, so this update comes as no shock to many. In an internal email obtained by the Verge, Apple backed their belief in requiring the booster shot by stating,
“Due to waning efficacy of the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines and the emergence of highly transmissible variants such as Omicron, a booster shot is now part of staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccination to protect against severe disease”
Adding a COVID-19 Vaccination Policy: What Should You Consider?
With Meta and Apple holding major influence, it’s fair to expect that many organizations will follow suit with a vaccination policy of their own. It can be a daunting task to implement new company policies, especially ones that may be polarizing among your employees. Here are some tips we encourage you to consider before rolling out a new policy:
- If your organization is going to require employees to get tested on a frequent basis, you may want to consider providing employees access to COVID-19 tests. Though many insurance companies will cover the costs for the employees, there are major companies like Google that have opted to provide COVID-19 testing to their employees as an added benefit. Not every company has the same resources as these major companies, but it’s important to flesh this out in your company vaccine policy for your employees to have a clear understanding upfront.
- Under the FLSA, employers are legally required to pay employees for time spent on mandatory COVID-19 testing.. When creating your policy, it’s crucial to ask yourself, how does your company plan to track PTO for vaccines? If you have a mixture of non-exempt and exempt employees, be mindful to clearly outline what is expected of both types of employee when it comes to requesting time off.
- Prepare for the fact that not every employee will see eye to eye with a vaccination policy and there may be an influx of remote work accommodation requests. When your leadership team determines a vaccination policy, re-visit your work from home policy as well and determine what exceptions you will approve (if any). It’s important to remember that when giving an employee an accommodation, other employees will expect the same.
- The biggest task to tackle when implementing a new policy is how your organization plans to remain compliant each step of the way. When requiring employees to show proof of vaccination and/or test results, clearly state how you want the employee to do so. Making instructions easy to follow will lead to less frustration and employee pushback.
How Can BerniePortal Help?
HR teams have a lot on their plates and adding a new policy, especially one that could require weekly monitoring, can seem intimidating. Here are a few tips on how to use BerniePortal to streamline your company vaccination efforts:
- Once your leadership team has created a clear-cut policy that they feel good standing behind, it’s important to let your employees know right away. Use BerniePortal’s Compliance feature to upload any new policies you have directly into the portal. With this feature, you can require employees to view and sign documents electronically – allowing HR to track vaccination compliance in real-time.
- If your policy requires documentation of vaccine cards and/or test results, a good place to store these documents is in each employee’s Personnel File in BerniePortal. The admin can set up a new “COVID” category that allows employees to upload their own documents while providing HR with a digital paper trail.
- An employee can schedule paid time off for COVID vaccinations and/or testing by utilizing BerniePortal’s PTO feature. This feature can help keep track of all requests and approvals in one centralized hub. Employees are able to attach a text box with every PTO request allowing them to state it’s for COVID purposes. Once a manager has approved the request, all-time off lives on one calendar in BerniePortal to make it easy for managers to monitor.
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