As an HR Knowledge Advisor, I have received many questions about the new federal vaccine mandate to combat the delta variant of the coronavirus. These questions often come with a frustrated tone of “virus whiplash” or a feeling of “here we go again” as the latest regulation deadline approaches. We all need to figure out and implement new policies once more. The stakes are higher on implementing this mandate. In the past, employers have implemented mask mandates, travel guidelines and work-from-home restrictions with agility, and employees were typically issued warnings when such policies were not followed. But now, if the new vaccine rule is not followed, an employee can be terminated from their employment and may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Employers may also be financially penalized by the government if they do not follow the mandate. In my recent conversations with SHRM members, many support the executive order. Employers don't want the delta variant to hurt the economy and their business revenue, nor do vaccinated employees want to risk exposure to COVID-19 from unvaccinated co-workers. We all long to get back to pre-pandemic levels of activity. Implementation of the vaccine mandate will land in HR’s lap. From tracking employees who have requested exemptions and their weekly test results, to understanding the Department of Labor’s requirements for determining an employer’s staff size, to identifying valid proof of documentation, HR will be deftly poised to manage the new workload. HR will likely be challenged with answering employees’ concerns about vaccination and responding to defiance of the policy. HR will need to be prepared for termination discussions should employees—even high-performers—refuse to follow the mandate. However, in true HR fashion, we will meet the challenge and lead organizations through uncharted territory to fulfill the new vaccination mandate.
If you want to know more about how to implement the vaccine mandate or have other HR questions, we’d love to help! Give us a call or send an e-mail. We’re also available by chat. It’s one of the most valued benefits of SHRM membership! SHRM’s Ask an Advisor service is a member benefit through which SHRM’s HR Knowledge Advisors share guidance, real-life personal and professional experiences, and resources to assist members with their HR-related inquiries.
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