Biden’s Announcement About Mandatory Vaccinations for Private Employers

If you have fewer than 100 employees, no federal contracts, and no healthcare workers, these new federal requirements do NOT apply to you.

We are actively monitoring for the details of President Biden’s COVID action plan. The aspects of this new plan that affect HR and how you run your business will come from DOL rules called Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), written by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); executive orders (EOs) from the President; and (for healthcare workers) regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). When relevant information becomes available, we will update you via an eAlert and provide information on the HR Support Center. In the meantime, here is what we know:

Employers with 100 or More Employees

Employers that have 100 or more employees will be required to:

  1. Mandate their employees get vaccinated against COVID or submit to weekly testing; and
  2. Provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated and recover if they experience side effects from the vaccine.

It’s possible that the weekly testing option will be reserved only for those who request testing as an accommodation to mandatory vaccination because of a sincerely held religious belief, disability, or pregnancy. We expect the new ETS to address this.

We don’t yet know if there will be a way for employers to get reimbursed for costs associated with compliance.

Federal Contractors

Federal contractors will be required to mandate vaccination among their employees.

Healthcare Workers

Workers in most healthcare settings will be required to be vaccinated.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

How to Make Good Use of Your Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks are a nifty communication and reference tool for the workplace, but only if they’re used and not collecting dust on some physical (or digital) shelf. A handbook is only as good as what it does. At the minimum, it should do the following:

Introduce employees to the fundamentals of your organization’s culture—the beliefs and values that members of the organization are expected to share. This introduction explains what you do and why you do it. It may also give employees a look into the history of your organization, how you got to where you are, and where you intend to go. Last but not least, it gives employees an idea of how they can contribute to the culture.

Communicate to employees what general behaviors and procedures are expected of them. These include general safety responsibilities, confidentiality expectations, timekeeping processes, reporting procedures, dress codes, and any other ways of doing things at your organization.

Educate employees about what they can expect from the organization’s leadership. Executives, managers, and HR departments have obligations to their employees—both those they’ve established themselves and those required by law. A good handbook tells employees what those obligations are and how they will be met. If your employees are entitled to leaves or accommodations, for example, your handbook should explain these.

Support consistent enforcement of company policies. Employers expose themselves to risk when they interpret, apply, or enforce policies inconsistently. Transparency about policies and how they are enforced helps keep everyone accountable and the enforcement of rules consistent across the company.

Showcase the benefits the organization offers. Does your organization offer vacations, 401(k), health insurance, paid parental leave, or other employee benefits? If so, your handbook should outline these programs and their eligibility requirements.

Let employees know where to turn for help. Employees should feel safe turning to HR or a manager to report workplace violations, get workplace-related assistance, and get answers to any other questions they may have. The alternative is for them to turn to an outside third party, like the EEOC, the DOL, or an attorney, which could trigger a costly and time-consuming investigation. When a handbook provides multiple ways for an employee to lodge a complaint (ensuring they won’t have to report the problem to the person creating the problem), they are more likely to keep their complaints in-house.

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How to Help Employees Communicate More Effectively

In an ideal world, communication would be easy. We’d immediately know exactly what to say or write. Emails, Slack messages, and reply threads would practically write themselves. And there’d be no confusion about what anyone meant, ever.

Of course, communication never works that way. We stare at the computer screen trying to decide how to begin an email. We misspeak or garble our words. We don’t always convey exactly what we intend. We misunderstand, overlook, or forget information we’ve been given. We also sometimes read emotions into words that weren’t what the writer was feeling. Or we pack our speech with such an emotional punch that it distracts from the point we’re trying to make.

Written communication often exacerbates these issues, a fact that has many leaders worried since more people are working remotely and relying on the written word to do their jobs. It’s no secret that we spend far too much time on email and other communication tools.  

Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to hire a writing coach to teach your employees better writing skills—although this can in some cases be a good idea. You can significantly improve communication in your organization by asking your employees to consider the following practices in their written communications:

Break up long sentences and paragraphs.

A big unbroken block of text is likely to befuddle your reader before they even get to the first word. Long sentences and paragraphs also make comprehension and retention of information much more difficult. Note the differences in these two communications:

Sample 1: I support the goals outlined in the proposal you sent to me yesterday, especially the need to better define appropriate metrics around the solicitation of customer satisfaction scores, and I want to thank you for the thought you gave to proposing workable solutions, but I’m not sure if all of the proposed solutions will work at this time. Let’s discuss it all at our next check-in.

Sample 2: Thank you for sending the proposal yesterday. I appreciate the thought you put into it. I agree with you about the goals, especially what you wrote about customer satisfaction scores. The solutions you proposed, however, may be a challenge to implement right away. Let’s discuss the proposal at our next check-in.

These samples provide the same information, but the second is easier to follow and digest.

Use clear, concrete terms.

Vague words, convoluted ideas, and broad generalizations make for easy miscommunication. Your reader will be more likely to understand your meaning if your language is specific. Remember too that just because something is clear to you doesn’t necessarily mean it will be clear to your reader. Compare these two statements:

Sample 1: Would you be able to review the thing I sent you earlier?

Sample 2: Here’s the letter for Anil I told you about this morning. Would you be able to proofread it for typos by the end of the day?

The first sample is likely to cause confusion and frustration if the recipient has recently received a lot of “things” from the writer or other people. In contrast, the second sample makes the context and the requested task clear to the reader.

Provide context and direction when adding someone to a conversation.

Most of us have had the experience of receiving a forwarded email that we’re not immediately sure what to do with. Should we keep it as a reference? Read through the thread? Respond in some way? We haven’t been told. Don’t do this. You should clue the reader in to what the conversation entails and what they need to know and do in response. Compare:

Sample 1: Please see below. What do you think?

Sample 2: Please read through the conversation below and note the product request from Oliver. Is that something you can add to your work this week?

The first sample is likely to prompt the recipient to weigh in on the wrong subject or ask the writer for clarification before responding, wasting valuable time either way. The second sample gives clear instruction, saving time.

Avoid unnecessary details.

While some context is useful, too much can overwhelm the reader and add to the time it takes for the communication to be written, read, and acted on.

Sample 1: I ran into Lindsay in the lunchroom and asked her about the Paterson deal. She asked me to follow up with her after her lunch break, which I did, and she gave me permission to start on the outline. She seemed a little aggravated that I interrupted her lunch. Anyway, I need to respond to a few emails before I get started on it, but I will get to it after and have it to you and her by close of business today.

Sample 2: I got the go ahead from Lindsay on the Paterson deal. I’m working on the outline and will email it to you and her by close of business today.

The first sample likely has too much information. The writer may have felt like including the extra details because they felt bad about asking Lindsay to work on her lunch break, but unless there’s a good reason for the recipient to know those details, they’re best left out.

Save difficult or emotionally intense conversations for calls, video conferences, or in-person meetings.

These conversations usually require more finesse than written text can provide. If you anticipate a strong emotional response to what you have to say, or if you believe the person with whom you’ll be communicating may read strong emotions into what you have to say, don’t write to them. Talk it through instead. Let them hear your voice and listen carefully to theirs.

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