December 16, 2021

Omicron: Our 5-Point Action Plan to Help Protect Your Workplace

Stephen Massey
Managing Director, Health Action Alliance

Vaccination and boosters, testing and masking will be key.

As cases of the Omicron variant begin a rapid spread, we’ve released a new 5-point action plan for employers to protect the health of their workers. This plan, which is informed by the latest insights from the expert panelists at today’s Health Action Alliance briefing, is designed to assist companies whose workers must be on-site now and in the new year.

1. Consider requiring vaccinations. 

A fully vaccinated workforce creates the safest possible workplace environment. Vaccine requirements have been shown to increase vaccination rates by an average of 35 percent, with minimal disruption. 

OSHA’s COVID-19 rules for large employers are on hold, but companies can move forward on their own—thousands have already, with more poised to follow. A new survey of small businesses shows that 63 percent either have a vaccine requirement in place or are currently considering one. Our Sample Vaccination Policy provides a customizable template to tailor a policy to your company.

2. Test all employees, regardless of vaccination status—at least until we know more about how Omicron spreads.

On-site testing, paid for by the employer, removes issues of access for low-income workers who might not be able to cover up-front costs of at-home tests even once they are required to be reimbursed by health insurance providers in January 2022. It also removes any question about the “honor system” of workers taking at-home tests and reporting their own results. 

Weekly testing is a baseline, but employers should look hard at testing two or even three times a week in the face of a fast-spreading variant. Remind workers: if they’re showing any symptoms at all, stay home.

3. Require masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) already recommends masking for all people in indoor public settings in areas of high or substantial transmission, which covers most of the country. Employers can help provide this extra degree of protection by making high-quality masks, such as KN95, available on-site and by modeling mask-wearing. 

4. Make it easier for workers to get boosters and vaccinate eligible children. 

Provide paid time off for vaccination or booster appointments and recovery from any side effects. Employers should also offer paid time off for working parents to accompany their children to their vaccine appointments. Polling shows the lack of paid time off is a big barrier to child vaccination for parents making $50,000 or less.

The CDC recommends boosters for all people ages 16 and over. Because booster shots increase the strength of our immune response, medical experts believe that boosters will protect people against serious illness, even from the Omicron variant. The latest data backs this up. Providing easy access to boosters will be even more important if they become required for people to be considered fully vaccinated.

To make vaccination easier, consider hosting an on-site clinic for workers and their families. Fewer than 20 percent of children ages 5 to 11 have received their first vaccine dose. That number needs to increase in order to safeguard against school closures and disruptions for working parents, especially moms.

5. Support workers’ mental health.  

COVID-19 continues to devastate families, isolate workers, and add to stress. Check in with your employees and connect them with supportive resources.

Need help developing your company’s vaccine policy or communicating about Omicron? We’ve updated our key resources, including our Quick Start Guide, Decision Tool, and Sample CEO Email to support your planning and outreach.