On September 9, 2021, President Biden announced the Path Out of Pandemic: COVID-19 Action Plan. One particularly divisive portion of that plan included an Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.
The purpose of this was to “promote economy and efficiency in procurement by contracting with sources that provide adequate COVID-19 safeguards for their workforce.” The specifics of which were recently announced by the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force.
New guidance released for COVID-19 vaccination requirements for Federal contractors
On September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force issued the COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. This document provides the definitions of relevant terms for contractors and subcontractors, explanations of protocols required of contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidance, and any exceptions…” It also includes a helpful FAQs section that goes into all the details.
Let’s take a minute to answer some of the more pertinent questions federal contractors may have moving forward.
COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance: Questions answered
What are the requirements under the new guidance?
The long and short of it is this: All “covered contractor employees” will need to be fully vaccinated by December 8, 2021, and implement certain safety protocols on covered contracts and workplaces.
Emphasis on fully vaccinated — meaning two weeks have passed since the second dose of two-dose vaccines, or after receiving the single-dose vaccine.
For those doing the math at home, that means shot two of two, or shot one of one, must be received no later than November 24. Right before Thanksgiving!
How does the timeline work for compliance?
The way this works is that all federal contracts (and subcontracts) will include the Section 2(a) clause provided in the Executive Order requiring compliance with all safety guidance requirements published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.
Here’s how the timeline for incorporating this clause looks like:
- Existing contracts entered into prior to October 15
- The clause will be incorporated when the contract is extended, renewed, or have an option exercised on or after that date.
- Contracts awarded on/between October 15 and November 14
- The clause must be included in the solicitation and agencies are encouraged to include them in contracts awarded during this period, but not required to do so unless the solicitation was issued on or after October 15.
- Contracts awarded on/after November 14
- The clause must be incorporated into all covered contracts.
What is considered a ‘covered contract’ ?
The guidance definition of covered contracts includes:
- Procurement contacts for services or construction
- Contracts for services covered by the Service Contract Act
- Contracts for concessions, including any concessions contracts excluded by the Dept. of Labor regulations under 29 CFR 4.133(b)
- Contracts entered into with the Federal Government in connection with Federal property to lands related to offering services for Federal employees, their dependents, or the general public.
Who needs to get vaccinated?
As far as who must be vaccinated, that includes all covered contractors, subcontractors, and their employees, whether full-time or part-time who work either “on or in connection with a covered contract” or “at a covered contractor workplace.”
We’ve established what a “covered contract” is, but what does “on or in connection” with a covered contract mean?
Working in connection with such contracts covers any work necessary to the performance of the contract. This includes a broad range of activities. Not just actual construction work, but also work involving things like human resources, billing, and legal review; including any employee that is working remotely.
As far as “covered contractor workplaces” are concerned, this includes any location controlled by a covered contractor at which any employee working on or in connection with a covered contract is likely to be present during the performance of the contract.
The only exception to this rule is if the individual has applied for an accommodation; which is only available due to a disability (medical reasons) or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observation.
Are there any other safety protocols?
Yes, there are also masking and social distancing requirements that must be followed. All individuals at a covered workplace (employees and visitors) must comply with the CDC guidance for masking and social distancing. Including, but not limited to:
- Wearing appropriate masks consistently and correctly (over mouth and nose)
- Wearing appropriate masks in common areas or shared workplaces (including open floorplan office space, cubicle embankments, and conference rooms)
- For individuals who are not fully vaccinated, wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated, consistent with CDC guidance.
How do I ensure these protocols and guidelines are being followed?
Covered contractors will be required to designate an individual to oversee implementation and compliance with these new safety protocols. This person will be in charge of communicating the protocols and requirements, ensure masking and physical distancing, and verifying vaccination documentation.
Acceptable forms of proof of vaccination are copies of the:
- Immunization records from a health care provider or pharmacy
- COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card
- Medical records documenting the vaccination
- Immunization records from a public health or State immunization information system
- Any other official documentation verifying vaccination with information on the vaccine name, date(s) of administration, and the name of the healthcare professional or clinical site administering the vaccine