Vaccine Mandates, Elections, Talent Challenges Among 'Top Issues to Watch'

13 Jan, 2022 Nancy Grover

                               

Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – While the U.S. Supreme Court weighs arguments over OSHA’s coronavirus mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees, employers are advised to start preparing for the new rule. At the same time, a majority of employers surveyed by one organization say they likely won’t require vaccines or weekly testing if the high court strikes it down.

 “These mandates remain controversial on many fronts and continue to impact businesses servicing the public,” said Kimberly George, Global Head of Innovation and Product Development for Sedgwick. During their most recent Out Front Ideas webinar, George and Mark Walls, VP of Client Engagement at Safety National, identified vaccine mandates as one of their Top Issues to Watch in the new year. 

OSHA ETS

Following oral arguments last week, the high court did not issue an administrative stay of the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), as some had expected. That has left many organizations struggling with how to proceed. 

“In this case, I believe it is telling that the Supreme Court did not issue an administrative stay.  This could indicate an outcome that leaves the stay dissolved so that the case can proceed on its merits,” said Chuck Kable, chief Legal officer and chief HR officer for Axiom Medical. “As a result of no action being taken…OSHA’s ETS is effective and enforceable. Employers should be taking good faith steps to comply, including preparing policies, identifying testing suppliers and protocols and gathering information required to meet recordkeeping obligations.”  

But employers surveyed indicate they will not force the issue.  “In December, SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that most respondents to their survey – 75 percent – said they are not likely to require vaccinations or testing if the mandate is permanently struck down by the courts,” George said. “Amongst employer challenges are employee morale and retention, complexities around implementing and managing the mandate and anticipated litigation challenges.” 

The survey of 1,000 of SHRM’s members also showed that 51 percent of affected employers are waiting to see how the current legal challenges unfold before deciding on a vaccination policy. Additionally, 18 percent are likely to risk non-compliance if the ETS is upheld. 

Elections 

The year 2022 is yet another election year. While the majorities of both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate are at stake, that’s not necessarily the most concerning issue for workers’ compensation stakeholders.

“Our issue is not focused on federal elections, but the states,” Walls said. “Thirty-six gubernatorial seats” are up for election.

The power of governors has been evident during the pandemic, with many issuing emergency orders. Also, since insurance is regulated on the state level governors have the ability to substantially influence the insurance industry with the naming of regulators and administrative law judges.

“Prepare to be deluged by advertising and exhausting comments from the media,” Walls said. “Any subtle changes could be impactful.”

Talent Changes

Among the biggest concerns for the insurance sector is the need to attract and retain employees. The pandemic has exacerbated a problem that had already existed.

“Did we do enough over the last three to five years to prepare us for today?” George asked. “It’s no surprise that the topic of talent is one of the highest business priorities we face in 2022 – retaining talented colleagues and providing them meaningful career paths, and attracting new talent are at the top of the list.”

Organizations are working hard to gauge and improve satisfaction levels among their workers. Town hall meetings, surveys, and employee resource groups (ERGs) are some examples of what organizations are leveraging.

“Employers with strong ERGs have found boosts in employee engagement and experience,” George said. “As talent looks at their employment opportunities, companies focused on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and those offering a variety of employee-led ERGs are at the top of their list.”

Many companies are taking new approaches to talent attraction in terms of where and how they recruit; ensuring there is alignment between recruitment, hiring and onboarding; and redesigning career paths and employee development programs.

“Finally, listen, listen, listen to your employees and act upon what you hear,” George said.  “We must all keep in mind while salaries are important, experiences matter more.”

Employees or Independent Contractors

Intentional worker misclassification is the leading form of workers’ compensation fraud, costing billions of dollars each year. But unintentional misclassification is also a continuing problem.

“The issue keeps getting murkier,” Walls said. “There can be different rules under workers’ compensation compared to payroll regulations, and different federal vs. state laws. A person who is an employee in one state may not be in another state.”

Several jurisdictions have recently passed laws to clarify the situation. However, some of those have been invalidated by court decisions. “If you’re an employer in California, good luck trying to figure it out,” Walls said. “We still need clarity on this very basic and fundamental issue.”

 


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    About The Author

    • Nancy Grover

      Nancy Grover is a freelance writer having recently retired as the Director, Media Services for WorkersCompensation.com. She comes to our company with more than 35 years as a broadcast journalist and communications consultant. Grover’s specialties include insurance, workers’ compensation, financial services, substance abuse, healthcare and disability. For 12 years she served as the Program Chair of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. A journalism/speech graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, Grover also holds an MBA from Palm Beach Atlantic University.

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