A new Department of Labor rule will require larger roofing companies to vaccinate their workforce against COVID-19 or show negative tests at least once a week.
With the delta variant still causing surges of COVID-19 cases throughout the country, President Joe Biden revealed the new rule yesterday as part of his administration’s plan to end the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, he announced that employers with 100 or more employees must make sure their workforce is fully vaccinated and to show negative tests for those who aren’t.
“We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America,” Biden said.
The Department of Labor will require employers under this new rule to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated.
The requirement for large companies to vaccinate their workers will be enacted through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and will carry penalties of $14,000 per violation, according to administration officials.
Biden is also signing executive orders that will require all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated without an option for regular testing. Previously, the administration said unvaccinated federal workers could undergo regular testing as an alternative. About 2.1 million civilians work for the federal government, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Reactions from the roofing and construction industry are bound to be mixed. A reader survey from Construction Dive shows that 60% of respondents said they’re worried about their health due to the unvaccinated, while 55% said they’re worried unvaccinated workers could impact their company’s success.
Conversely, a survey back in May indicated nearly half (46.4%) of those who identified as being in the construction, oil and gas extraction or mining industries answered they “probably” or “definitely” would not choose to receive the vaccine. Respondents cited reasons such as a lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccine and the government, disbelief about the need for the vaccine and dislike of vaccines in general for their hesitation.
Due to the labor shortage the industry was facing prior to the pandemic, roofing contractors may have been reluctant to impose a mandate out of fear they'd lose workers, potentially to a rival that didn't have a vaccine mandate. A universal vaccine mandate means the playing field is level, but that doesn't mean workers will be happy about it.
A poll run by the Washington Post and ABC News asked unvaccinated workers what they would do if getting vaccinated was required for their workplace. The poll showed 16% would get the shot, 35% would ask for an exemption (religious or medical) and 42% would quit. When asked what they would do if no exemption was available, 18% said they’d comply while 72% would quit.
“Although some argue that this policy is a case of government overreach, there may be little recourse,” said Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Attorneys & Consultants, about the federal contractor mandate. “To protect your livelihood, it is essential that you retain your government contracts by complying with the new directive.”
The mandates come weeks after the Pfizer vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Studies continue to show the COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death from COVID-19.