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CDC Issues Guidance on Workplace Vaccination Program

On March 16, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control issued Guidance on workplace vaccination programs for essential workers. The CDC refers to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce for the definition of an “Essential Worker.” This guidance provides a high-level overview of 8 areas for employers’ consideration:

Start Building Confidence in COVID-19 Vaccines Now

The CDC encourages employers of Essential Workers to build confidence in the vaccine. The agency even provides a “COVID-19 Vaccine Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers.” The Guidance is full of links for methods and even informational documents to use with the Essential Workers.

Determine When Your Employees Can Be Vaccinated

Employers must stay up-to-date as to when their employees are eligible to receive a vaccine. The states control the rollout of the vaccine. Employers must be aware of each state’s rollout protocol and should communicate the same to their employees.

Best Practices

The CDC offers general tips for employers of Essential Workers:

    • Offer flexible, non-punitive sick leave options (e.g., paid sick leave) for employees with signs and symptoms after vaccination.
      • NOTE: As explained in a previous blog, the American Rescue Plan expanded the COVID Paid Sick Leave to address the scenario of when an employee experiences symptoms of the vaccine. The American Rescue Plan allows employers to offer FFCRA leave and thereby receive a tax credit through September 30, 2021. Based on this expanded COVID sick leave, employees can take time off work due to vaccine symptoms/reactions and get paid (and the employer can take the tax credit).
    • Allow time for vaccine confidence to grow. The CDC suggests allowing people multiple opportunities to obtain the vaccine.

Where to Get Vaccinated

The CDC offers two options for companies that have essential workers: either on-site vaccination or off-site vaccination. As of the date of this blog, company-site vaccination does not seem feasible. Since most, if not all, employers cannot host vaccinations at their place of business, we will focus on what the CDC says in regards to off-site vaccination.

    • Allow employees to get vaccinated during work hours. (See my previous post on Who Pays for What, and note that the expanded FFCRA Paid Sick Leave covers the time spent getting vaccinated.)
    • Make sure the employees know that the Vaccine is free.
    • Support transportation to off-site vaccination clinics.

Other Considerations

    • Sub-Prioritization. In the event where there are not enough vaccines, it is a good idea to have a plan of priority. The CDC set out guidance on this topic. Briefly, when prioritizing frontline and essential workers, employers must weigh certain factors, including risks associated with the job-requirements, age, and underlying health conditions.
    • Avoid Worker Shortages due to Vaccine Side Effects. The employer should consider staggering employee vaccination in an effort to avoid a shortage of employees due to vaccine side effects.
    • What About Contractors and Temporary Employees? The CDC noted that temporary staffing agencies and their host employers are joint employers, “therefore both are responsible for providing and maintaining a safe work environment.”

Mandates and Exemptions

As vaccines become readily available, employers’ vaccine policy and strategy may change. While employers have the authority to mandate vaccines, based on the CDC’s guidance, a flexible policy appears to be the suggested approach. The employer should consult with counsel regarding any vaccine-related issues.





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