New guidance from the Safer Federal Government Workforce Task Force says that agencies “should establish a COVID-19 screening testing program by February 15” for employees who are not fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus by then.
That is to apply to employees who have a “pending or approved request for exception or extension” of the vaccination mandate, as well as if “an agency is engaged in enforcement steps”— that is, one that has started taking discipline — against an unvaccinated employee who doesn’t have such a request pending or approved.
The guidance reiterates prior statements that under the mandate, employees with approved or pending requests for exceptions are not subject to the disciplinary sequence that can lead to firing – but they are to be subject to tighter policies regarding masking, physical distancing and travel, as well as regular testing. Up to now there had been few specifics regarding the testing aspect.
The guidance says that employees subject to it “should be tested weekly for any week during which they work onsite or interact in person with members of the public as part of their job duties” including employees who work offsite such as safety inspectors, it says.
“Agencies may require more frequent testing, such as for certain roles, functions, or work environments,” it says, and may require even vaccinated employees to be tested for reasons of “operational or administrative considerations.”
Testing will not apply to covered employees in a week they are working remotely or on full-time telework—although it will apply if a need arises for them to report to an agency facility in a such a week—on when on leave.
Covered employees will not “need to be able to provide the results of a negative test each time they enter or are present in their agency’s facilities, unless required as part of the agency’s screening testing program and workplace safety protocols.” However, if they work onsite at another agency’s worksite, they will be treated as visitors and would have to show proof of a negative test result administered within the prior three days.
Regular testing further may be required “on a frequency determined by the agency” of covered employees who generally do not report to a worksite or interact with members of the public as part of their job duties but who may need to do so on an emergency basis.
It adds: “An employee’s failure to comply with testing requirements can result in disciplinary action, up to and including removal. An agency may separately elect to bar the employee from the agency workplace for the safety of others pending resolution of any disciplinary action.”