Retail Groups Request More Time to Implement Vaccine Mandate For Employees

In the wake of President Biden’s vaccine mandate for certain companies, retail organizations are expressing concerns about their ability to see the mandate through.

In a joint open letter sent to Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), representatives from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) requested that retailers be given 90 days to implement and create systems needed to meet the new mandate.

President Biden announced earlier this month that businesses with 100 or more employees would have to mandate vaccinations or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees. The new mandate could impact about 80 million Americans and will be enforced by OSHA. Federal employees and employees of all federal contractors will be required to get vaccinated and will not have to option to test.

OSHA will enact the rule as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), an acceleration measure that has only been used 10 times in the organization’s more than 30-year history. Once the mandate is formally issued, it will be in effect for six months and will then be subject to a formal rule-making process through OSHA to make it permanent.

Retailers and manufacturers have already expressed concerns about their ability to reasonably enforce such a mandate across their workforces. Now, leading trade groups are highlighting possible challenges and requested more time.

“As we have navigated federal and state requirements, recommendations, and protocols, we have learned that it takes time to implement successful testing and vaccination programs — particularly in the face of challenges related to availability, access, and verification,” read the letter, signed by RILA’s Michael Hanson and NRF’s David French. “As a result, we urge OSHA to consider the extensive measures that every company will need to undertake to implement the requirements of any ETS. Further, regulators should consider the stress this action will place upon availability of and access to vaccines and tests.”

According to the letter, having more time will allow for more feedback to the Department of Labor and the Biden Administration regarding the feasibility of the mandate.

“Ultimately, the more time retailers have to understand and adopt the ETS requirements, the better it will be for the health and productivity of the industry and the country,” the letter read.

In the letter, NRF and RILA also highlighted outstanding questions regarding certain elements of the mandate that have yet to be clarified. For example, it is still unclear who would pay for weekly tests as well as time off for those employees who opt out of the vaccine. It is also uncertain if businesses are expected to maintain records on employees’ vaccination and testing statuses, as it could be a burden for large businesses with thousands of employees.

Other groups have also stopped short of full support of the mandate. In a statement, the National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO Jay Timmons expressed hesitation regarding the mandate and said it should not “negatively impact the operations of manufacturers.”

“We look forward to working with the administration to ensure any vaccine requirements are structured in a way that does not negatively impact the operations of manufacturers that have been leading through the pandemic to keep Americans safe,” Timmons said. “It is important that undue compliance costs do not burden manufacturers, large and small alike.”

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