Issue Briefs

Following is a summary and questions and answers newly issued by the Biden administration regarding its revisions to federal workplace policies including a new requirement for agencies to determine the vaccination status of employees and new testing requirements for those who are unvaccinated or who refuse to disclose their status.


Consistent with CDC guidance, in areas of high or substantial transmission ( see the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker County View), Federal employees, contractors, and visitors must wear a mask inside Federal buildings, except for the limited exceptions discussed in the section on F ace Masks and Physical Distancing below. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask regardless of community transmission level.

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Federal agencies need to ask about the vaccination status of Federal employees and onsite contractors—employees and onsite contractors must sign an attestation confirming their vaccination status, or they will be treated as not fully vaccinated for purposes of safety protocols. Federal agencies also must establish a program to test not fully vaccinated Federal employees and onsite contractors weekly or twice-weekly.

In addition to receiving paid time off to be vaccinated and to deal with any side effects, employees will receive paid time off if they need to accompany a family member being vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated Federal employees and onsite contractors do not need to physically distance or participate in weekly screening testing, and are not subject to any Government-wide restrictions on official travel (although agency travel policies still apply). In areas of high or substantial transmission, they need to wear a mask in public indoor settings in Federal buildings. In areas of low or moderate transmission, they do not need to wear a mask.

Those Federal employees and onsite contractors who are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination status must wear a mask, physically distance, and comply with a weekly or twice-weekly screening testing requirement, and are subject to Government-wide restrictions on official travel.

Visitors must provide information on their vaccination status and comply with the requisite safety protocols. Visitors who are not fully vaccinated or decline to provide their vaccination status must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from no later than the previous 3 days prior to entry to a Federal building or in-person participation in a Federally hosted meeting, event, or conference. The requirement to provide information on vaccination status and a negative COVID-19 test does not apply to members of the public entering a Federal building or Federal land to obtain a public service or benefit. If they are not fully vaccinated, these visitors must comply with all relevant CDC guidance, including wearing a mask and physically distancing from other people.

Vaccinations

Q: Should agencies inquire regarding the vaccination status of Federal employees and onsite contractors?

A. Given the different safety protocols for individuals who are fully vaccinated and those who are not fully vaccinated, agencies need to ask about the vaccination status of Federal employees and onsite contractors. Employees and onsite contractors must attest to the truthfulness of the response they provide. If an employee or onsite contractor chooses not to provide a response, they will be treated as unvaccinated for the purpose of agency safety protocols. In requesting this information, agencies should comply with any applicable Federal laws, including requirements under the Privacy Act and the Paperwork Reduction Act, and any applicable collective bargaining obligations. When an employee or contractor discloses that they are unvaccinated or declines to complete the attestation, agencies should treat that individual as not fully vaccinated for purposes of implementing safety measures, including with respect to mask wearing, physical distancing, testing, travel, and quarantine.

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Q: Should agencies inquire regarding the vaccination status of visitors to Federal buildings?

A: Visitors to Federal buildings should be asked to provide information about vaccination status. In requesting this information, agencies should comply with any applicable Federal laws, including requirements under the Privacy Act and the Paperwork Reduction Act. Visitors who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to provide information about their vaccination status must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test from no later than the previous 3 days prior to entry to a Federal building.
These requirements related to the provision of information about vaccination and provision of proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test do not apply to members of the public entering a Federal building or Federal land to obtain a public service or benefit. If they are not fully vaccinated, these visitors must comply with all relevant CDC guidance, including wearing a mask and physically distancing from other people.

Q: Are agencies required to establish different safety protocols for fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated individuals?

A: Yes. Fully vaccinated individuals do not need to physically distance, undergo screening testing, or have restrictions on their official travel (although they still must comply with any local requirements and relevant CDC guidance for fully vaccinated individuals while traveling). Fully vaccinated individuals in areas of substantial or high transmission (see the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker County View) need to wear a mask in public indoor settings. Fully vaccinated individuals in areas of low or moderate transmission do not need to wear a mask.

Fully vaccinated individuals might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission for a variety of reasons.

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Individuals who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to provide information about their vaccination status must wear masks regardless of community transmission level, physically distance, and undergo screening testing weekly or twice-weekly, and their official travel is restricted.

In order to be treated as fully vaccinated pursuant to agency COVID-19 workplace safety plans and protocols, employees and onsite contractors must attest that they are fully vaccinated by signing a form provided by the agency. Visitors also will be asked to provide information about their vaccination status. Individuals who decline to provide information on their vaccination status will be treated as not fully vaccinated for purposes of agency COVID-19 workplace safety plans and protocols. Visitors who are not fully vaccinated must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test that occurred within the previous 3 days prior to entry to a Federal building.

Individuals entering a Federal building or Federal land to obtain a public service or benefit do not need to provide information about their vaccination status or provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. If they are not fully vaccinated, they must comply with all relevant CDC guidance, including wearing a mask.

Q: What safety protocols should an agency apply to employees and onsite contractors prior to establishing a means of determining vaccination status consistent with this guidance?

A: Agencies may take a reasonable period of time to establish a program for determining the vaccination status of employees and onsite contractors consistent with this guidance. Prior to an agency establishing such a program, they should continue to utilize their current means of determining the safety protocols that apply to specific employees and contractors.

Local Requirements

Q: How should an agency determine the level of community transmission related to a given Federal facility?

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A. In applying COVID-19 workplace safety protocols connected to levels of community transmission in a given area, agencies should reference the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker County View. Agencies can use discretion in determining the counties relevant to the determination of the level of community transmission in a given area for a given Federal facility. For example, agencies may consider the county in which an agency facility is located as well as the transmission levels of surrounding local counties from which employees commute to the facility.

Q: If a locality imposes additional pandemic-related requirements more protective than those set forth in Federal guidance, do those requirements apply in Federal buildings and on Federal lands within that locality?

A: Yes. Where a locality imposes more protective pandemic-related safety requirements, those requirements should be followed in Federal buildings and on Federal lands within that locality.

Testing

Q: Can an agency establish a testing program utilizing a third party?

A: Agencies must establish a testing program. In lieu of conducting testing onsite, agencies can require Federal employees and onsite contractors who are not fully vaccinated or who decline to attest to their vaccination status to provide proof of a timely negative COVID-19 test.

Leave

Q: Must an agency grant administrative leave to cover the period of time it takes an employee to accompany a family member who is receiving a COVID-19 vaccination?

A: Yes, an agency must grant administrative leave to Federal employees who accompany a family member who is receiving a COVID-19 vaccination.

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Based on President Biden’s direction that the Federal Government should work aggressively to maximize the number of people receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, the Administration has determined that, going forward, agencies must grant administrative leave to Federal employees who accompany a family member who is receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. For this purpose, a “family member” is an individual who meets the definition of that term in OPM’s leave regulations (see 5 CFR 630.201).

Under this policy, agencies must grant leave-eligible employees up to 4 hours of administrative leave per dose—for a potential maximum total of 8 hours of leave for a family member receiving two doses. (If an employee needs to spend less time accompanying a family member who is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, only the needed amount of administrative leave should be granted.) Employees should obtain advance approval from their supervisor before being permitted to use administrative leave for COVID-19 vaccination purposes. Employees may not be credited with administrative leave or overtime work for time spent outside their tour of duty helping a family member get vaccinated. This policy applies to covered vaccinations received after posting of this FAQ on July 29, 2021.

Mask Wearing

Q: Does the requirement for individuals who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask apply to outside areas of a facility (e.g., courtyards and sidewalks between buildings)?

A: In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. However, consistent with CDC guidance, those who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook