For federal employees who have refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, The Office of Management and Budget is telling federal agencies they can delay firing said employees until after the holidays. In place of implementing immediate termination, there is an “education and counseling period” for unvaccinated employees continuing into December.
According to an OMB spokesman, this counseling period is the first move of enforcement of the vaccine mandate implemented by President Joe Biden. Biden signed an executive order on September 9 requiring all government employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Nothing has changed with respect to our deadline or our approach to the federal employee vaccination requirement,” the OMB spokesman said in a statement. “The deadline was November 22, and we already have 96.5% compliance across a diverse workforce that is the largest in the United States. This is incredible progress and should serve as an example to employers across the board that vaccination requirements work.”
“We’ve also said the deadline is not a cliff and that our goal is to protect workers, not penalize anyone. That’s why we’ve encouraged agencies to continue the education and counseling period in December for the small number of employees not already in compliance, and delay most suspensions and removals until the new year. We’re seeing strong increase in compliance and believe this is the best approach to vaccinate more employees,” the spokesman continued.
While technically “nothing has changed” about the deadline or approach to implementing federal workers’ vaccine compliance, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, she did go on to say that it’s “inaccurate to suggest … that we’ve delayed anything or changed (anything). The deadline that has already passed. We’re working to implement (it).”
This termination delay follows the new travel restrictions that the US has placed on South Africa and seven other countries in an attempt to control the spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
Vaccination rates have gone beyond the Biden administration’s expectations, yet there are still varying degrees of compliance amongst different federal agencies.
The details of vaccine compliance released by OMB last week revealed that the federal government has reached 96.5% compliance. Roughly 92% of employees have also received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose.
Currently, the Department of Transportation has the highest level of vaccination rate in light of the mandate at 99.6%.
Alternatively, the US Department of Agriculture, with 86.1% of employees having received at least one COVID-19 shot, is the agency with the lowest level of vaccinations.
Earlier in 2021, Biden imposed his vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in an attempt to contain the latest surge of COVID-19, especially after the emergency of the highly transmissible Delta variant at the time.
Additionally, Biden directed the Labor Department to require all businesses with 100 or more employees make sure that their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week. Eighty-four million workers would be covered by this order, which is set to take effect in full swing on January 4th.
Immediately after being announced, the mandate was under fire from Republican-led states as well as some private employers, who argue the administration overstepped its authority in issuing such a rule.
The latest on this actively evolving policy took place on Monday after a federal judge in Missouri issued an order partially blocking the administration from implementing a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers.
This is a developing story, to learn more about updates pertaining to the federal workforce and this story in particular, follow our ‘Federal News Bulletin’.