Safe return to the office requires COVID health and safety policies - but where is the direction coming from?
There are no court-approved COVID vaccine mandates for companies to follow.
The Supreme Court struck down vaccine mandates for companies with over 100 employees from the OSHA branch of the Department of Labor, but upheld the rights of the federal government to mandate vaccines for health care workers. A lower court did not recognize the authority of the federal government to mandate vaccines for all federal workers or contractors. The basis of these actions was to deliver more responsibility to states and local governments - limiting the power of the Executive Branch of the federal government. National overreach was mentioned as being part of the equation. During the pandemic, severe criticism has been leveled at the CDC, the FDA, and all levels of government for giving conflicting guidance regarding the relative values of different health and safety initiatives. Most of this was well-founded.
There is no consistent direction from state and local government to follow.
The lack of consistency of state government has confused the mandate questions. The NY Supreme Court struck down mask mandates as decreed by the NY State governor. In Florida and other states, the governor has outlawed creating any mandates by organizations. It is unclear how health and safety policies will be made at the local level for those at risk for being victims of the pandemic. Based on the range of state and local government-led actions regarding COVID vaccines, there will be variable support for different mandates in different locales.
So who will lead?
Businesses have to make their own COVID health and safety rules based on the needs of their organization. Many responsible organizations including prestigious ones such as Google, Netflix, Apple, and Citigroup have already stepped up and created vaccine mandates for their workforce. The JPMorgan Chase CEO has already declared that workers need both vaccines and boosters to be in the office.
Why would they do this and risk alienation of their workforce?
The reasons are simple and numerous.
They need to protect the health and safety of their workers - and show they care. They need to reinvigorate their culture and re-establish a sense of belonging. This may help companies recruit and retain talent more effectively.
They need to ensure productivity. They need to decrease the risk of supply chain disruptions and facility shutdowns. This will help keep our economy open and operating - protecting livelihoods and our way of life.
They need to manage their costs. Companies are paying for the health care costs of their employees if they provide health insurance. Decreased illnesses in the workforce lead to decreased health care costs.
Bottom line, they need to protect their reputation - with their workforce, their customers, their shareholders, with their community.