How Will Mandatory Vaccinations Impact the U.S. Labor Market?

Patience is running out at the White House. Although President Biden’s ‘Path Out of the Pandemic’ action plan has been underway for some time, many states still have a vaccination rate of less than 60%.

Last month, the president announced new rules regarding the mandatory vaccination of private sector employees in the U.S. The plan has been met with considerable opposition, with several groups questioning how ethical it is to mandate vaccines in this way. This has led to delays in legislation approval. It is expected that the proposed rules will need U.S. Supreme Court agreement before they are made official, potentially delaying implementation by several weeks.

A year into the COVID-19 vaccination program, and the Biden administration is yet to convince a large portion of U.S. workers that it is worth getting vaccinated. Will vaccine mandates change this? Or will the workforce be decimated by the dismissal of unvaccinated employees?


What are the proposed vaccine mandate rules?


According to the proposals, the government will instruct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce proof of vaccination for all private companies employing more than 100 workers.

Employees that are unable to provide proof of vaccination (two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson), will need to provide negative COVID-19 test results on a weekly basis.

Unvaccinated workers will also be required to wear face coverings, both indoors and in shared vehicles.

As before, any employee that tests positive for COVID-19 must not enter the workplace until their isolation period has ended.


Are there any exemptions?


There are the usual medical exemptions, and employees that work remotely on a permanent basis are not obligated to follow the mandate.

Many employers have taken the step of reclassifying workers as freelancers or independent contractors. This is seen as a way of reducing liability, but businesses still need to be cautious regarding the compliance of these individuals.


Why are vaccine mandates being introduced?


The U.S. government is nervous another potential wave of hospitalizations and deaths this winter. Biden desperately wants to avoid a return to systematic lockdowns, believing that vaccination uptake has a pivotal role to play.

Currently, just 61% of Americans have received at least two doses of a recognized COVID-19 vaccine. Until now, incentives have remained somewhat passive. It will be interesting to see if employees are willing to jeopardize their livelihoods by refusing the vaccine. It is hoped that passing responsibility onto employers will make widespread mandate enforcement far more achievable.


When will the vaccine mandate rules come into effect?


The plan is to introduce the new regulations on January 4, but legal challenges are likely to cause a significant delay. Most companies are getting ready to implement policies regardless. In fact, some private sector firms have already introduced their own rules in anticipation of upcoming mandates.

OSHA is providing policy templates for employers to ensure consistent application of the rules.


What happens to employers that don’t comply with vaccine mandates?


The penalties for non-compliance are severe. As well as formally communicating vaccine policies to staff members, employers must ensure compliance and satisfy government reporting requirements. Each individual violation could result in a fine of up to $13,653, with a $136,532 penalty applied to any company that deliberately disregards the mandate rules.


What happens to employees that don’t comply vaccine mandates?


Essentially, employees that refuse to follow the directives will be either be suspended without pay or dismissed. The decision lies with the employer, so it is possible that reasonable solutions can be found to accommodate an unvaccinated worker (remote working etc.). Of course, this won’t always be possible, and employers aren’t obliged to do so.



What impact will employee vaccine mandates have on recruitment?


Vaccine mandates will affect various phases of the recruitment process; most notably, sourcing and onboarding.

Firstly, it is vital that staffing and recruitment agencies provide clarity regarding employee vaccination requirements. A solid understanding of vaccine policies needs to be conveyed to both clients and candidates before the hiring process begins. The employer will need to decide whether they are prepared to accommodate unvaccinated applicants (remote working, regular testing etc.), or only want to consider fully-vaccinated individuals.

Agencies must communicate expectations in a consistent and professional manner. Mindscope offers a templated document builder that enables recruiters to securely distribute standardized messages to hundreds of clients and candidates at a time.

Candidates that agree to disclose their vaccination status can be flagged accordingly within the Mindscope Applicant Tracking System. From the database, recruiters can use Mindscope’s Boolean search capabilities to filter candidates by vaccination status and create hotlists to focus exclusively on viable candidates. Not only does this speed up the hiring process, but it also means that there are less likely to be unwanted surprises uncovered further down the recruitment pipeline.

When onboarding new employees, timely access to up-to-date vaccination records and COVID-19 test results is crucial. It can be particularly difficult to organize when hiring multiple employees at once.

Mindscope seamlessly integrates the Able onboarding platform to make COVID-19 documentation management as hassle-free as possible. This integration means that recruiters can use the system to set documentation criteria for candidates. If mandatory information is missing, users can send automatic notifications to applicants, prompting them to submit the required documents. The platform is mobile-friendly, enabling new employees to upload necessary files directly from their smartphone in an instant.

All of the information submitted is attached to a candidate’s profile in the applicant tracking system and securely stored for future reference.


Mindscope provides innovative, user-friendly staffing and recruitment products designed to facilitate a seamless hiring process. We are committed to helping our customers succeed – contact us today to see how we can transform your recruitment activities.