EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | What will the latest vaccination mandates and COVID-19 pandemic turmoil mean for employers in 2022?

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | What will the latest vaccination mandates and COVID-19 pandemic turmoil mean for employers in 2022?

For two solid years, the COVID pandemic has dominated the news and agendas of employers around the globe. Just in time to kick off 2022, the most contagious wave of the COVID pandemic – the Omicron variant – has crashed fear down upon employers scrambling to figure out how to keep their businesses alive and employees healthy. Even if Omicron plays out to be more mild than other Coronavirus variants, will businesses be able to survive it?

Here’s What We Do Know:

Employers only have until January 10 to work toward the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) mandate-or-test emergency vaccine rule.

At the close of 2021, in one of the more shocking developments in a year full of surprises, a federal appeals court breathed new life into the Biden administration’s mandate-or-test emergency vaccine rule. Just before Christmas, the ruling – which many hoped would keep the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on ice pending resolution of the many legal challenges against it – was overturned, keeping the rule in place.

The ETS is in effect now in Federal OSHA jurisdictions. The ETS initially required compliance with all aspects other than the testing requirements by December 6, and with all requirements by January 4, 2022. While those deadlines are no longer feasible, OSHA has posted an aggressive updated compliance deadline plan.

OSHA can issue citations immediately but has said it will exercise its “enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS” to allow employers time to get up to speed.

Specifically, it states, “OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

If this rule applies to your business, you must immediately demonstrate reasonably good faith efforts to comply between now and January 10.

In response to the ongoing Omicron wave of COVID-19 cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just updated its guidance to reduce, in most instances, both the length of time an individual must isolate after contracting COVID-19, and the quarantine period for those exposed to the illness. Here is the recommended compliance plan for those companies affected:

Isolation Period for Infected Employee After Positive COVID-19 Test. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, they should follow this course regardless of vaccination status:

  1. Stay home for five days.
  2. If they have no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving after five days, they can leave their house.
  3. They should continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
  4. If they have a fever, they should continue to stay home until the fever resolves.

Quarantine Period After Employee Is Exposed to Someone with COVID-19. For employees who are unvaccinated, haven’t received a booster, or received their second dose of Moderna/Pfizer more than six months ago or their single dose of Johnson & Johnson more than two months ago:

  1. Stay home for five days. After that, they should continue to wear a mask around others for five additional days.
  2. If they can’t quarantine, they must wear a mask for 10 days.
  3. They should get a COVID-19 test on day five, if possible.
  4. If they develop symptoms, they should get a test and stay home.

For employees who have received a booster after receiving a two-dose Moderna/Pfizer vaccine or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or received their second dose of Moderna/Pfizer less than six months ago or their single dose of Johnson & Johnson less than two months ago:

  1. Wear a mask around others for 10 days.
  2. They should get a COVID-19 test on day five, if possible.
  3. If they develop symptoms, they should get a test and stay home.

Educate Your Workforce.

  1. Change has been a constant throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees are always concerned when policies change.
  2. If employees know that their coworkers may return to the worksite approximately five days after being diagnosed with COVID-19, they may be concerned.
  3. Alleviate this problem by educating your workers on any new company policy on isolation, including providing information on the new CDC guidance and why you are making changes.

Vaccination Boosters are Important; Encourage Them – And Consider a Mandate.

  1. As part of its press release announcing the new guidance and provisions, the CDC highlighted the importance of COVID-19 vaccination boosters.
  2. Although they are not currently required to be considered “fully vaccinated” under the ETS and other guidance, encourage your employees to receive them this winter as COVID-19 cases remain high.
  3. If you have already mandated the vaccine in the workplace, consider requiring employees to receive a booster dose as well.

Contact Tracing Is Still Crucial to Minimize Cases of COVID-19.

  1. As part of reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in the workplace, perform contact tracing when an employee tests positive for the virus following the 6-15-48 method. This includes asking the infected employee, and assessing the workplace, to determine who worked within six feet of the infected worker, for 15 minutes or more (cumulatively during any 24-hour period), during the time period of 48 hours before the infected person had symptoms or, if asymptomatic, the administration of the positive COVID-19 test. Implementing this process will prevent the illness from spreading in your workplace.

Develop a COVID-19 or Infectious Disease Policy and ETS Policy.

  1. If you haven’t already done so, implement a written COVID-19 or infectious disease policy to document your work rules on how to minimize cases in your workplace.
  2. The OSHA ETS also requires written policies, including a mandatory vaccination policy or testing and masking policy. Having written policies in place will not only keep you compliant with governing rules, but also allow you to communicate your policies effectively to your employees.

While not all employers are governed by the mandate-or-test emergency vaccine rule, many employers are suffering from worker shortages because of the rapid increase of infections, reported as exceeding one million in the past 48 hours alone. It would be wise for all employers, large and small, to keep current and follow the guidelines to help protect their workforce and their business.

 

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A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhance your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | New Affirmative Action Rule Issued

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | New Affirmative Action Rule Issued

Since the onset of the pandemic, employers have been overwhelmed by new rules, regulations, and procedural updates. Perhaps this explains why the announcement of a significant change in the Affirmative Action compliance requirement has been issued seemingly unnoticed, and under the radar of many businesses.

 

Affirmative Action is a set of procedures for employers to follow for both applicants and current employees. It is designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination in the workplace based on, at the very least, race, creed, color, and national origin.

Federal contractors have long been required to complete annual Affirmative Action Plans (AAPs) that address women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans in contractor workforces. However, these plans have largely been on the “honor system” with contractors only needing to produce them during audits or certify their existence during the contracting process.

Until now, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has never required annual reporting regarding the maintenance of Affirmative Action Plans. This new rule will assuredly send a jolt through many employers who will need to quickly ramp up their compliance efforts by 2022, when the new rule goes into effect.

 

The New Affirmative Action Rule

The new rule states that supply and service federal contractors and subcontractors with Affirmative Action Plans will soon need to register and certify they are meeting their compliance obligations to develop and maintain annual AAPs via the online Contractor Portal, a new OFCCP Affirmative Action Program Verification Interface.

The interface was created by the Department of Labor with the intent of reducing the pressure on department audit resources by developing an online completion and certification for the difficult-to-track metrics on employment practices.

In 2016, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report recognized that OFCCP did not have a method to regularly collect Affirmative Action Plans and only audited approximately 2% of the contractor community annually. The GAO report recommended a mechanism to monitor Affirmative Action Plans on a regular basis. In September 2020, the OFCCP published a notice seeking comment on the possibility of an annual AAPs certification and verification process.

 

What Should Contractors Do to Prepare? 

Although OFCCP will only require annual certification by supply and service federal contractors, this may well change to cover the entire federal contractor and sub-contractor community and any business receiving federal funds.

Now is a good time to review your compliance practices. Businesses should be prepared to complete the registration and certification process on schedule. For registration, you will need your EIN number and Headquarters/Company Number and Establishment/Unit Number from the EEO-1 Reports.

 

What Will Contractors Be Required to Do?

Starting in 2022, federal contractors will need to provide certification of their AAPs to OFCCP via the AAP-VI portal. The schedule for contractor registration and certification is as follows:

  • February 1, 2022: contractors may begin registering for access to the portal. OFCCP will send an email to each covered federal contractor in its jurisdiction whose email information is available in its system, inviting them to register.
  • March 31, 2022: contractors will be able to utilize the certification feature in the portal to certify their AAP compliance.
  • By June 30, 2022: existing contractors must certify whether they have developed and maintained an affirmative action program for each establishment and/or functional unit, as applicable.
  • New contractors that have 120 days to develop their AAPs must register and certify compliance in the portal within 90 days of developing their AAPs.
  • Registration and annual certification will not exempt covered federal contractors and subcontractors from compliance evaluations.

 

Impact on Other Businesses?

Employers who contract with the government or who otherwise receive federal funds are required to document their affirmative action practices and metrics.

 

A Brief History on Affirmative Action

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 11246, mandating government contractors “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.” (Executive Order 10925) Since 1965, government contractors have been required to document their affirmative action programs through compliance reports, to contain “such information as to the practices, policies, programs, and employment policies, programs, and employment statistics of the contractor and each subcontractor…” Enforcement is conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Affirmative action is also a remedy, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, where a court finds that an employer has intentionally engaged in discriminatory practices. (The EEO-1 Component 1 report is a mandatory annual data collection that requires all private sector employers with 100 or more employees, and federal contractors with 50 or more employees meeting certain criteria, to submit demographic workforce data, including data by race/ethnicity, sex, and job categories.)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which was created by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, enforces the following employment anti-discrimination laws:

  1. Equal Pay Act of 1963
  2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (race, color, religion, national origin)
  3. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (people of a certain age)
  4. Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Sections 501 and 505 (people with disabilities)
  5. Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  6. Civil Rights Act of 1991

 

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About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhance your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

 

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | Important Year-End Employment Law Assessment

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | Important Year-End Employment Law Assessment

As 2021 draws to a close, every business should carefully assess where they stand regarding compliance with the overwhelming amount of employment laws. Some are well known while others have a much lower profile. This allows many employment laws to slip under the radar of companies already inundated by day-to-day operations during these challenging times.  

 

Here’s a look at some of the most impactful:

 

Predictive Scheduling Laws:

There has been a rise in the number of states adopting predictive scheduling laws. Predictive scheduling laws require that you give employees advance notice of hours and scheduling changes as well as reduce back-to-back shifts. As more and more states start incorporating these laws, it will be critical for businesses to understand what they must do to remain in compliance with them.

 

Equal Pay Laws:

Nearly every state has its own equal pay law. These have become more prevalent following awareness of the gender and race wage gaps. Reviewing employee salaries will be critical for not only being in compliance with the law but also employee retention.

 

Paying the Correct Minimum Wage:

Jurisdictions have moved from education to enforcement of minimum wage laws, adding an extra layer of importance regarding paying the correct wage. Since there are employee shortages in many parts of the country, pay compliance has greater significance for employee retention efforts.

 

Conducting Proper Background Checks:

Hiring has become even more challenging for HR teams. Background checks are often cited as one of the major hurdles to overcome in determining the eligibility of the right candidate. Poorly conducted interviews, not checking references and incomplete background checks are all costly in both time and resources.

 

Paid Leave Laws:

Correctly administering and understanding the factors that go into properly applying paid leave laws can be lengthy and complex. Working to get the details for accrual rates, benefits and more, can be very time consuming for a busy staff.

 

Supervisor Training Guidelines:

It is an employer’s responsibility to follow state training guidelines for things like sexual harassment. Having a formal training program should be considered mandatory for future compliance concerns. You cannot train enough.

 

Labor Law Postings:

A business’s first line of defense against employee complaints is updated labor law postings. Knowledge of the rules will be vital to any compliance program. Also, now there are new requirements for labor postings for work-at-home employees.

 

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About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhance your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

 

PREPARING EMPLOYERS | Workplace Vaccination Mandate

PREPARING EMPLOYERS | Workplace Vaccination Mandate

Taking effect as soon as December 6, the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will require all covered employers with 100 or more employees to either mandate their workforce to receive the vaccination against COVID-19 or test them weekly to ensure they are not infected.

The court’s decision and legal delay give employers a chance to re-examine how the ETS would affect their workplace, their readiness to implement the provisions if necessary, and the impact that associated policy decisions may have on the company.

 

As one OSHA official stated, “There may not be much of a runway to get ready if another court clears the ETS for immediate takeoff.”

Here are some recommendations for employers in taking immediate action:

  • Confirm you are subject to federal OSHA ETS: Keep in mind that 22 states have “state plans,” where a state agency enforces its safety regulations apart from the federal ETS. An employer still could be subject to the Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, the OSHA COVID Healthcare ETS, or the CMS Omnibus Staff Vaccination Rule, which requires vaccination (with no testing option) of individuals working at or for healthcare providers who participate in the Medicare or Medicaid programs and are regulated by CMS.
  • Establish standby compliance policies: Be prepared to provide paid time off to employees for vaccinations and require unvaccinated workers to mask by December 6.
  • Evaluate where you now stand regarding procedures on all the following policies:
  1. Establishing, implementing, and enforcing a written policy on vaccines, testing, and face coverings.
  2. Providing clear information to employees on vaccines and the requirements of the ETS.
  3. Preparing to provide paid time off to employees to obtain the vaccine and reasonable time and paid sick leave to recover from side effects following each dose.
  4. Obtaining and maintaining records and a roster of employee vaccination status.
  5. Complying with certain notice requirements when there is a positive COVID-19 case and reporting to OSHA when there is an employee work-related COVID-19 fatality or hospitalization.
  • Assess your level of risk tolerance: Whether and how you proceed is largely a matter of risk tolerance. Although other OSHA temporary standards have been struck down in the past, this is an unprecedented and unpredictable situation, and no one really knows how things will shake out in the coming weeks and months. Some employers may choose to sit tight until the courts provide clarification. In view of the detailed requirements, failure to begin preparing could be a risky proposition since potential fines are very large.
  •  Evaluate both legal and practical issues. Your policy choices obviously merit serious consideration. We all know employers are concerned about the strong feelings on all sides of the vaccination issue. During this period of workforce shortages, employers are anxious about the impact that a vaccine mandate could have on employee retention.

 

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WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

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-Urgent requests | Please Call: Toll Free 877.476.9520

 

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About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhance your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

EMPLOYER OUTLOOK | Impacts of the Build Back Better Act

EMPLOYER OUTLOOK | Impacts of the Build Back Better Act

Employers will likely benefit from the pivotal role they play in the execution of the impending Build Back Better Act (BBBA).

The bill has an upside for employers and will have several positive effects on the business community.

a) Increased availability of workers because of the expansion of preschool and childcare.

b) An opportunity for more business creation to meet climate change and housing requirements. High-quality jobs can increase with investment in buildings, transportation, industry, electricity, and agriculture policies for climate-smart practices across the country.

c) Adding highly trained workers will provide exponential value to the growing technical needs in most businesses.

d) Reformed rules will enable immigrants to fill important jobs that have been traditionally understaffed.

Appearing to be in the final stages of adjustments and negotiations for completion, the White House issued the BBBA framework to guide legislative language. Here are the main takeaways of the bill:
  • Clean Energy and Climate Investments: Combat climate change by cutting greenhouse gas pollution well over one gigaton by 2030, reduce consumer energy costs, and create thousands of high-quality jobs.
  • Child Tax and Earned Income Tax Credits: Provide two years of free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America and continue tax cuts for more than 35 million families through the expanded Child Tax Credit.
  • Home Care: Expand access to high-quality home care for older Americans and people with disabilities.
  • Affordable Care Act Credits: Extend the expanded Premium Tax Credit to deliver healthcare coverage for uninsured people in states that have locked them out of Medicaid. Also grant older Americans access to affordable hearing care by expanding Medicare.
  • Higher Education and Workforce: Extend access to affordable, high-quality education and workforce training beyond high school to enable American workers and companies to compete in a tech-savvy modernized world.
  • Housing: Provide comprehensive investment in affordable housing that will enable construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than one million affordable homes. Boost housing supply and reduce price pressures for renters and homeowners.
  • Prescription Drugs: Develop a plan to reduce prescription drug costs.
  • Immigration Reform: Improve the immigration system to provide long-awaited relief to millions. Reduce backlogs to expand legal representation and make the asylum system – and border processing – more efficient and humane.
Employer Advantage will provide updated guidance in managing the requirements of the BBBA once the bill has passed and is rolled out to the country.

 

Click here to see our other helpful “Blog for All Employers”

 

Not currently an Employer Advantage client?

WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

We don’t just give quotes—We provide strategic business proposals.

-Free strategic assessment of your business needs

-Quick and easy account setup and seamless transitions

-Urgent requests | Please Call: Toll Free 877.476.9520

  

About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human ResourcesPayrollHealth and Benefits, Workplace Safety and more, enhance your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune-500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com