On October 5th, NTEU National sent out a notification that updated guidance has been released from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. What’s new? What’s updated? What does any of this mean? We’ll break it down for you!
Several sections of the FAQ were updated. The first section, ‘Vaccination Requirement for Federal Employees’, had one update and one new addition. In regards to new hires, unless agencies have urgent, mission-critical hiring needs, new staff should be required to provide documentation to prove full vaccination prior to their enter on-duty date. If the agency does have such a need, new hires that are not vaccinated should be required to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of their start date. OPM released additional guidance as well regarding specific wording for new hires. The addition was in regard to new hires as well, but particularly those who begin their employment after the executive order was issued, but before the November 22nd deadline. Unless employees require accommodations, or the agency has an urgent, mission-critical hiring need, new hires should be required to be fully vaccinated by the November 22nd deadline. If the agency does have a hiring need, new hires should be required to be fully vaccinated within 60 days of their start date.
The second section, ‘Vaccination Documentation and Information’, received one new answer. This specifies that employees may not use a recent antibody test in place of a COVID-19 vaccination.
The third section, ‘Limited Exceptions to Vaccination Requirement’, received twelve new additions. Due to the extensive amount of new information, the updates will be listed below.
- Agencies should establish a date by which employees should notify their agency that they are seeking a Reasonable Accommodation to be exempt from the vaccine.
- Agencies should provide those seeking a Reasonable Accommodation with a form to submit to request an exemption from the vaccine.
- Agencies should allow employees two weeks to receive their first dose, or only dose if using the one-dose series if their request for an accommodation is denied.
- If employees are not fully vaccinated due to an approved exemption, then they will need to follow the current guidelines for masks and social distancing. If the agency determines that no other safety protocol other than vaccination is adequate, the requested accommodation may be denied.
- The agency may, under very limited circumstances, grant an extension to a vaccination deadline based on other medical considerations. The CDC provides specific delay protocols here.
- Based on guidance, the CDC considers a history of severe allergic reactions after previous doses or to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine, and an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose or diagnosed allergy to a component of the COVID-19 vaccine to be medical conditions that are considered contraindications (conditions or circumstances that suggest the application of the vaccine as a treatment is not advisable).
- Individuals will be allowed to delay vaccinations in very specific circumstances outlined by the CDC. Please visit the CDC website for an extensive list of circumstances in which the vaccination may be delayed. While the vaccination is delayed, the employee must still follow the agency’s safety protocols, including masks and social distancing.
- The vaccination is recommended that people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.
- The CDC, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and Society for Maternal-Fetal medicine recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19.
- Employees who have had prior COVID-19 diagnoses are still required to be fully vaccinated once they are fully recovered from the illness.
- COVID-19 vaccinations may be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccinations such as the seasonal influenza vaccines.
- If the second dose of the same mRNA vaccine is temporarily unavailable, it is preferable to delay the second dose until the same product is available. In the rare occasion in which the same mRNA vaccine is unavailable indefinitely, any mRNA vaccine may be administered with a minimum of 28 days between doses.
The final section, ‘Enforcement of Vaccination Requirement for Employees’, contains one update covering what steps agencies may take if employees refuse to be vaccinated or provide proof. If a federal employee does not comply with the executive order, it is considered to be a violation of a lawful order, and the employee will be subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal. A course of action was laid out for agencies to follow if employees refuse to get vaccinated.
- An enforcement process will be initiated with a 5 day education and counseling on the COVID-19 vaccine.
- If the employee does not begin the vaccination process by the end of the 5 day education and counseling, a short suspension of 14 days or less is recommended.
- If the employee still does not comply after the short suspension, then removal is recommended.
Agencies have the right to initiate this enforcement process as soon as November 9th for employees who fail to submit documentation to show that they have completed their vaccination course by November 8th as long as there is not exemption approved or pending. If the employee begins the process to comply, then any discipline will be held in abeyance. If the employee has requested an exemption and is denied, and the employee still does not move to comply with the vaccination requirement, the agency may pursue disciplinary action, up to and including removal. Click here to read OPM’s additional guidance on agency enforcement.
We know this is a lot of information, and we’re here for you to guide you as best we can. Please reach out to us in our office at (816) 499-4496, or email us at email@example.com.