When is it time to remove Covid workplace protocols? Some companies say ‘right now’

Absent federal guidance, HR departments are left alone to determine whether it’s time to rethink workplace Covid-19 policies.
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· 3 min read

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If you haven’t heard a Covid-19 update in a while, you’re not alone: For months, HR has received no new information from OSHA, the DOL, or the CDC on whether or how they should update pandemic workplace policies.

The most recent guidance from the EEOC came in July, when the department clarified and limited the scope of permissible workplace testing. In August, the CDC decided to “streamline” some of its general Covid recommendations in an attempt to get America to “a point where Covid-19 no longer severely disrupts our daily lives,” but federal guidance for managing Covid at work remains mostly unchanged from the beginning of the year.

Adam Young, Chicago-based partner at Seyfarth Shaw, told Business Insurance that the lack of updates leaves HR to “figure it out on [their] own.” So, how are they deciding what to do?

It’s not 2021. Even though Americans are still catching (and dying from) Covid-19, some large municipalities announced the end of most lingering mandatory Covid-19 policies this fall, including NYC, which ended its private employer vaccination mandate.

As of late September, almost half of Americans reported to Axios/Ipsos that they’ve gone back to their pre-pandemic lives, such as working in offices—that’s up 21% since March, when just one-quarter of the nation reported reverting back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle. Many feel more at ease than ever about the risks of doing so: Almost 4 in 10 American employees surveyed at the end of July told Gallup they are “not concerned at all” about getting Covid at work, and just 5% of eligible adults have gotten the latest round of boosters.

HR is listening. In the climate of growing Covid fatigue, HR professionals still requiring lengthy Covid protocols may feel like a millennial clinging to their skinny jeans—a bit out of touch and a tad out of fashion.

  • Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and all US-based airlines have dropped vaccine mandates for employees, with Goldman citing “significantly less risk of illness” as the reason why.
  • Many more companies are following suit behind the scenes, reports Axios, opening up hiring to unvaccinated workers while trying not to draw scrutiny in the court of public opinion.
  • Protocol reports others are de-emphasizing contact tracing: In August, offices conducted 70% fewer contact traces and workers returned half as many health surveys on Slack tool Officely than they did in March 2022.

As for our readers…we asked last week whether your organization has rolled back any of its pandemic-era policies due to the economic downturn and found 57% of you have not, 30% have, and 13% are considering it.—SV

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SusannaVogel1 on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Susanna for her number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.