On November 1, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force updated its guidance on implementation of Executive Order (EO) 14042: Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. The updated guidance provides new frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to vaccination and safety protocols, the scope and applicability of the guidance, and compliance with EO 14042.
Key Highlight of the Guidance
The key highlight of the updated guidance is that federal contractors will have flexibility in enforcing the vaccine mandate. By providing flexibility, employers will have the opportunity to educate workers who are unvaccinated as of the December 8, 2021, deadline instead of automatically terminating their employment.
Specifically, the guidance advises that if an employee refuses to be vaccinated, “a covered contractor should determine the appropriate means of enforcement with respect to its employee at a covered contractor workplace who refuses to be vaccinated and has not been provided, or does not have a pending request for, an accommodation. This may include the covered contractor using its usual processes for enforcement of workplace policies, such as those addressed in the contractor’s employee handbook or collective bargaining agreements.”
Further, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, Jeff Zients, said he expects federal agencies and contractors “will follow their standard HR processes and that for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance, they’ll go through education, counseling, accommodations and then enforcement.”
Next Steps for Employers
Employers are encouraged to review the updated guidance which can be easily located by looking for FAQs labeled “NEW”. Employers should determine what resources they will provide to educate or counsel employees who are refusing to be vaccinated; how much opportunity employees will be given to comply; and prior to termination of employment, what type of disciplinary measures will be taken to encourage compliance.
Employers should also continue to ensure masking and physical distancing protocols are followed by unvaccinated employees.