By Andrew Ross Sorkin, Jason Karaian, Sarah Kessler, Stephen Gandel, Lauren Hirsch, Ephrat Livni and Anna Schaverien
President Biden on Thursday laid out a wide-ranging plan to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, including requiring companies with more than 100 employees to mandate that their workers get vaccinated or face weekly testing. The move comes as airlines, restaurants and other businesses are already feeling the pain of an economic pullback caused by the Delta variant of the virus. The new rule will affect some 80 million workers.
Many companies were already moving toward mandates. In a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, 52 percent of respondents said they planned to institute vaccine mandates by the end of the year, and 21 percent said they already had such requirements. But many of those mandates, including at companies like Goldman Sachs and UPS, have focused on white-collar workers, who tend to have higher vaccination rates. This presidential directive will help industries facing labor shortages, like retail and hospitality, institute a requirement on their frontline workers. “It levels the playing field,” said Ian Schaefer, a partner at the law firm Loeb & Loeb.
But companies will now face new decisions, like whether to pick up the tab for weekly testing and how to handle religious exemptions — tasks many are already finding challenging. A recent poll by Aon of 583 global companies found that of the employers that have vaccine mandates, 48 percent said they were allowing for religious exemptions; only 7 percent said they would fire a worker for refusing to get vaccinated.