Just days to the Christmas holidays, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule on vaccine mandates for employers with at least 100 employees was finally reinstated after weeks of a legal battle challenging its validity. The U.S Federal Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit nullified the suspension of the rule ordered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, on the grounds that OSHA could take such decisions given the global health threat of COVID-19.
This new move has set things straight for employers who had been in the dark about the outcome of the battle. Now, employers are faced with another challenge: finding the right strategies to implement the standards stipulated in the new rule.
How do you authenticate COVID-19 vaccine certificates? How do you facilitate COVID-19 testing for employees who are exempted from taking the shot? How do you conduct COVID-19 tests for remote workers? These are real issues that could suppress employee compliance
Thankfully, a new breed of HR technology has emerged to help employers navigate this situation seamlessly. HR tech solutions have developed vaccination tracking tools to allow HR managers to verify and authenticate their vaccine cards.
These vaccination tracking tools work either as standalone mobile apps downloaded on employees’ smartphones or web apps in an organization’s HR portal, which an HR representative can access to verify the vaccine card. Further, these mobile applications also allow employees and employers to keep tabs on current local and global vaccine regulations and restrictions.
According to Jim Wetekamp, CEO of Riskonnect, which has developed a tracking app called COVID-19 Immunization Tracker, a digital vaccine tracker eliminates the burden of manually monitoring COVID-19 vaccine regulations and mandates and take the burden of manually verifying COVID-19 vaccine cards off HR.
Further, some of these vaccine tracker tools are designed with employee preferences in mind. Alight Verify, designed by HCM solution provider Alight, allows employees to choose their preferred channel for verifying their vaccination cards, uploading their vaccination details, or scheduling a vaccine appointment or COVID-19 testing.
This gives employees more control in navigating vaccine rules. These digital platforms give them more control over their health information and with whom these data get shared. Ultimately, this boosts employee compliance and provides employers with access to data-driven insights into immunization and COVID-19 trends across their workforce. This inevitably empowers HR leaders with data to make informed decisions around work models, staffing, and other coronavirus restrictions.
This, no doubt, is an efficient tool for curbing vaccination fraud, which has become prevalent in many countries. Essentially, vaccination fraud will defeat the purpose of the mandate and would also potentiate COVID-19 spread if not tackled.
“Identity verification provides a significant deterrent, as fraud can be attributed directly to the person who submitted the fraudulent document,” says Blake Hall, CEO, and founder of ID.me. ” ID.me instead uses sophisticated machine learning technology to detect fraudulent document templates, '' he adds, “so we can spot patterns that would otherwise go undetected,” he added.
To facilitate COVID-19 testing, particularly for remote workers, tech leaders have also developed digital solutions to meet OSHA’s testing requirements.
According to the OSHA rule, a compliant COVID-19 test is “not both self-administered and self-read unless observed by the employer or an authorized telehealth proctor.” This means that if at-home and self-reported results are invalid, employers can either coordinate tests with a local lab or bring the test in-house and have an administrator observe the test administration.
1health, a digital COVID-19 testing solution provider, has created a tool that allows employees to order testing kits and either have a lab analyze the sample and send results through the same platform to the company’s database or have an administrator report the results within the digital platform.
Other employers are partnering with at-home testing companies, such as Vault Health, that send testing teams to workplaces, collect samples from employees and send results to the employer’s database. This makes regular testing seamless without disrupting workflow.
However, as with most digital health platforms, employers must be careful to avoid data compromise. Under the new OSHA rule, employers must store records of employee test results and vaccine information and also report any COVID-19-related deaths to OSHA. Therefore, in using these tech tools, employers should ensure access to these sensitive data must be restricted to authorized persons and the information does not lead to any forms of discrimination against an employee.
In sum, with the OSHA vaccine mandate reinstated and given the green light, HR leaders should look to tech solutions to navigate this vaccine requirements and COVID-19 testing protocols to ensure seamless control of the contagion in their workplaces.