Retailers Seek 90 Days to Comply With OSHA Vaccination Rule
Two leading retail-sector trade groups asked Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to give companies 90 days of “lead time” to implement the forthcoming mandate for COVID-19 vaccination or testing for tens of millions of workers. The emergency temporary standard being developed by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will require employers with 100 or more employees to ensure each worker is fully vaccinated or tested weekly, in addition to providing them with paid time off to get the shot and recover from any side effects. The National Retail Federation (NRF) and Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) said the “extensive measures” businesses will need to implement require that they be given an ample window before enforcement begins.
Total Retail's Take: The recent announcement of this emergency rule has sent retail organizations scrambling to prepare for its potential application, which figures to have an outsized impact on the retail industry, the largest private sector employer in the U.S. economy. Many retailers already were strongly recommending or even requiring that their employees receive the COVID vaccine (e.g., CVS, Walgreens, Saks Fifth Avenue, TJX, Walmart, among others had such requirements in place), however, most were operating on an honor system and not requiring proof of vaccination (i.e., sharing of a vaccination card). The fear among some in the industry is that this requirement will drive more hourly workers such as store associates and warehouse staff out of the workforce, compounding the issue of a very tight labor market. Furthermore, we're entering the busy Q4 holiday season, when many retailers are adding seasonal and part-time staff. Remaining compliant with the mandate will be a HR challenge that many large retailers may not be ready to handle. Regardless if the request for 90 days lead time is granted by the Labor Department or not, retailers must begin to plan for the inevitable and start setting up policies to ensure their workers are vaccinated. Get ahead of this coming mandate if you can.