OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

What large employers need to know.

Compliance requirements for employers.

Home » COVID-19 Resources » OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS). Released on November 4, the policy requirements take effect December 5 and must be fully implemented by January 4, 2022.

UPDATE: Legal challenges of the COVID 19 ETS continue to evolve. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that it has “suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” The announcement results from the Fifth Circuit’s continuing its stay of the ETS. 

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has won the lottery to hear legal challenges after multiple lawsuits against the administration were filed in several federal appeals courts. It will now be up to the 6th Circuit to decide whether to lift the stay issued by the 5th Circuit. 

The White House is urging companies to prepare to comply with the rule’s requirements, which include a Dec. 6 deadline for employers to identify which workers are vaccinated or not, and to enforce a mask mandate.

Even if the 6th Circuit weighs in quickly, it’s likely the decision will be appealed and the litigation could continue for some weeks and months. Ultimately, the case could wind up in the Supreme Court.

As you’ve come to expect, we will keep you updated and informed as things evolve.

Who is covered?

The ETS covers all private employers with 100 or more employees.

It excludes healthcare employers already covered by an earlier directive issued in July as well as federal contractors covered by one of President Joe Biden’s Executive Orders (EOs) issued in September. It also doesn’t apply to employees who (1) don’t work around coworkers or customers, (2) work from home, or (3) work exclusively outdoors.

What does ETS require?

Employers must adopt a written vaccination policy requiring all employees to be fully vaccinated unless they can’t get the shots for medical reasons or because of a sincerely held religious belief. The policy may offer them the option of (1) being fully vaccinated or (2) providing proof of regular testing for COVID-19 and wearing a face covering while at work.

What is acceptable proof of vaccination?

To comply with the ETS, employers must require—and maintain records of—one of the following types of vaccination proof:

  • Immunization record from a healthcare provider
  • COVID-19 vaccination card
  • Medical records documenting vaccination
  • Medical records from a public health immunization information system
  • Other official documentation specifying the type of vaccine, the dates it was administered, and the healthcare provider’s name

If employees can’t produce one of the types of proof, they may offer a sworn, signed statement that they are vaccinated and can’t provide the required documentation. The sworn statement should include the vaccine type, the dates, and the identity of the healthcare professional or clinic administering the shots.

What records must be kept?

As noted above, you must maintain copies of the employee’s proof of vaccination as well as a roster of each person’s vaccination status. Both are considered medical records and must be maintained as confidential.

Do you have to allow time off?

An employer must allow reasonable time off (up to four hours) for the employee to obtain a vaccination as well as paid sick leave for a worker to recover from any side effects following the shots. You are not required to provide paid leave for an employee who tests positive for COVID-19.

What are the testing requirements for unvaccinated employees?

If employees who work at least one day a week opt for testing in lieu of vaccination, they must undergo testing once a week and provide documentation of the result within seven days of their last test result. Employees who don’t work every week must be tested within seven days before returning to work.

The employer must maintain records of all test results, treating them as confidential medical records. If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must not require further testing for 90 days.

What tests are acceptable?

To satisfy the testing exception, the COVID-19 test must be approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) but not one self-administered and self-read (e.g., a self-read home test).

Who pays for testing?

The ETS doesn’t require employers to pay for the weekly testing, but they may be required to pay under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with a union. The testing costs also may have implications under the minimum wage requirements in state and federal wage and hour laws. The latter is a very murky question at this point.

What if employees don’t provide required test results?

Unvaccinated employees who don’t provide the required weekly test results must be removed from the workplace until they do so.

What happens when employees test positive?

Employers must require employees to promptly report a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis and then immediately remove them from the workplace until they:

  • Receive a negative nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT)
  • Meet the return-to-work criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Receive a return-to-work recommendation from a licensed healthcare provider

You are not required to provide paid leave for employees removed because of a positive test or diagnosis unless they are otherwise entitled to it under your company policy or state law. Any work-related COVID-19 hospitalizations or fatalities must be reported to OSHA under its expedited reporting requirements.

When are face coverings required?

Unvaccinated employees must wear a face covering (over both nose and mouth) when working indoors or in a vehicle with another person except when they’re alone in an enclosed room or eating or drinking or when necessary for security identification or infeasible because of the nature of the work or hazards created by the mask. An employer isn’t responsible for covering the costs for the face coverings but must ensure they’re worn properly and replaced when soiled or damaged. An employer can’t prohibit customers or visitors from wearing masks.

What information must be provided to employees?

You must inform employees about the ETS’s requirements and your related policies. Also, you must share information about vaccine efficacy and let them know they won’t be retaliated against for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses or safety concerns.

What’s Next?

We expect some industry groups and states to file legal challenges to the ETS, but their timing and the outcome are extremely uncertain. Given the short lead time for compliance, employers should prepare now for the December 5 deadline.

Businesses that don’t comply may face significant OSHA fines.

For more details, see the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS FAQs. Use this Employer Checklist: Preparing for COVID ETS to guide your company through the compliance process.

COVID Vaccine/Testing ETS Key Dates

December 6, 2021 – Determine which policy your organization plans to follow a) mandatory vaccines for all employees or b) mandate that unvaccinated employees undergo weekly testing and establish a written policy. Use the sample policies provided in the hyperlinks.

December 6, 2021 – Determine vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination, maintain records and roster of vaccination status.

December 6, 2021 – Provide support for employee vaccination.

December 6, 2021 – Require employees to promptly provide notice of positive COVID-19 test or COVID-19 diagnosis.

December 6, 2021 – Remove any employee who received a positive COVID-19 test or COVID-19 diagnosis.

December 6, 2021 – Ensure employees who are not fully vaccinated wear face coverings when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.

December 6, 2021 – Provide each employee information about the ETS; workplace policies and procedures; vaccination efficacy; safety and benefits; protections agains retaliation and discrimination; and laws that provide for criminal penalties for knowingly supplying false documentation.

December 6, 2021 – Report work-related COVID-19 fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours and work-related COVID-19 in-patience hospitalizations within 24 hours.

December 6, 2021- Make certain records available.

January 4, 2021 – Ensure employees who are not fully vaccinated are tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if away from the workplace for a week or longer).

For questions, additional resources, one-on-one assistance, and guidance, please contact our Loss Control Specialist, Kristy Ryan at 319-887-3742 or kryan@relion-ins.com.

The information contained on this webpage is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

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