Biden Announces Vaccine Policy
President Biden today announced the outline of a new vaccine policy for federal employees. While we have the broad strokes, NTEU has many questions about how and when the policy will be rolled out across the government, including how the rights of employees will be protected.
Here is what we know. The new policy is not a mandate for vaccinations. Instead, it seems to establish a process for employees to voluntarily disclose their vaccination status. For employees who wish to keep that information confidential or choose to remain unvaccinated, a testing protocol will be established.
According to the White House Fact Sheet, “Anyone who does not attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to wear a mask on the job no matter their geographic location, physically distance from all other employees and visitors, comply with a weekly or twice weekly screening testing requirement, and be subject to restrictions on official travel.”
The policy is in response to the delta variant of the coronavirus which is now the dominant strain in the United States and, according to public health professionals, highly contagious and the cause of most new COVID-19 illnesses. With the rise in COVID cases, NTEU is calling on federal agencies to delay implementing any plans to return teleworking employees. Telework has been a proven benefit throughout the pandemic keeping employees safe at home while continuing to get the job done for their agencies and the American public.
For those tens of thousands of NTEU members who report regularly to their workplaces, NTEU has important questions about the new policy. Among them are how employees will make their vaccination status known and how long vaccinated employees will be required to wear masks. In addition, how will employees with medical or religious reasons for not being vaccinated be accommodated.
For the testing protocol, there are additional questions about frequency, type of test, how the government plans to pay for the tests and what happens if an employee tests positive.
As always, the details matter and NTEU is working to get additional information from the Office of Personnel Management and agency leadership. We will work to ensure employees are treated fairly and this protocol does not create an undue burden on them.
We continue to encourage all of our members to get vaccinated for their own health and that of their coworkers and communities. Vaccines are the best defense we have against this pandemic and putting it behind us. Agencies should continue to reduce any barriers to testing or vaccinations by providing administrative time for both, providing vaccines and testing at the workplace and generally reducing the burden on employees.
There is much more to come on this new policy and NTEU is analyzing what we currently know and providing questions and input to the administration. We will work closely across the union to ensure that employees have the information they need, get their questions answered and remain safe and healthy in their workplaces.