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Preparing for President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate (and It's Not What You Think)

User IconMike Persinger
Clock IconSeptember 10th, 2021
Glasses Icon4 Min Read
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President Biden on Thursday introduced wide-ranging new mandates to combat the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, including a mandate that companies with more than 100 employees require either coronavirus vaccinations or show a negative test once per week for all employees. 

That leaves some larger companies in the trades concerned that the mandate could cost them workers in an industry that already struggles with hiring. 

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Ian Schotanus — known as “The HR Guy” and a specialist in human resources for the trades — has simple advice: Be prepared, but wait and see what happens.

“Whether (a business owner) is for or against the vaccine is halfway irrelevant. It’s going to come down to whether your team will support whatever policy you put in place, whether we’re talking about Covid vaccines or anything else,” Schotanus, co-founder of The Big Picture Consulting, said Friday.

On Thursday, Biden spoke to the large minority of American adults who have not been vaccinated to this point.

“We’ve been patient,” Biden said in an address from the White House. “But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us.”

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For business owners in the trades and elsewhere, Schotanus suggests being prepared and honing the messaging for your team. He says that’s regardless of company size, because the 100-employee limit could change. 

“Right now it’s all about communicating with the team and making sure you know where your employees stand on the topic, as innocuously as you can,” he said. “Your team needs to trust that you are looking out for them, regardless of what the government is doing."

Biden’s comments come as the United States endures a fourth wave of the virus, with crowded hospitals straining to care for Covid-19 patients, including intensive care units sometimes at capacity or overflowing. 

The impact has been worse in states with lower vaccination rates, with CDC data showing the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths coming among the unvaccinated. 

The unvaccinated minority, Biden said, “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

The emergency plan being developed by the Department of Labor would require companies with more than 100 employees to have those workers vaccinated against Covid-19 or show a weekly negative test for the virus. They would also be required to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated. 

The White House said the mandate would affect about 80 million workers, and include a $14,000 per employee fine for companies that don’t comply. 

All healthcare workers at facilities that treat Medicare and/or Medicaid patients, executive branch federal employees and federal contractors will also be required to be vaccinated or show a negative test weekly.  

Pfizer’s vaccine has received full FDA approval while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are being administered under an emergency use authorization.

The mandate also leaves some companies in the trades worried. Schotanus said that’s unnecessary, for now. 

“There are all sorts of challenges,” he said. “And right now, it’s just a sweeping declaration.

“At the most, all you can do is wait and see, for the most part. But you have to be prepared to move one way or the other. Communicate with your teams and your customers, find out who is vaccinated or not, and keep that information confidential.”

That preparation, he said, is key. 

“I don’t debate the validity or the benefits of the vaccines, or the safety hazards, or anything else,” Schotanus said. “This is about how to protect your company.”

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