New Vaccination Requirements and Insurer Return-to-Office Plans

New Vaccination Requirements and Insurer Return-to-Office PlansAs the delta variant has contributed to rising COVID-19 cases in many regions of the country, insurers have been delaying or redesigning their return-to-office (RTO) plans. Those plans must now change further to take a new factor into account: vaccinations.

On September 9, the Biden Administration announced that all businesses with 100 or more employees must ensure that their workers are vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit weekly negative tests before returning to the office.

Details around this new rule, which is being developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are still taking shape. What we know right now is:

  • Workers must either be vaccinated or produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.
  • Businesses will be required to give employees paid time off to be vaccinated and to recover from side effects.
  • As reported by the Washington Post, businesses that ignore the new policy could face penalties of up to $14,000 per violation.

This new rule will affect hundreds of insurers. While it relieves them of making the difficult decision to require vaccinations, they will now face the challenges of implementing it: ascertaining vaccination status, monitoring test results, adjusting work schedules, and maintaining compliance.

Deciding whether or not to create a vaccination requirement has been a major question for insurers. In a May 2021 snap poll of insurer CIOs, more than half thought it likely (or at least possible) that not having clear guidance would expose them to risk. But vaccination policy is a potential minefield for any employer, creating privacy concerns and eliciting strong reactions from employees, both in favor and against.

Only 15% of insurers previously planned to require their employees to be vaccinated. But that figure masks considerable uncertainty, especially around the risks of the delta variant: In an August 2021 follow-up snap poll, some 40% of insurers indicated they were either revising their RTO policies around vaccinations or considering doing so.

In the same poll, 12% of insurers said they would now probably require employees to be vaccinated, even though they previously hadn’t. Insurers widely cited vaccination policy and unclear federal and local guidance as major concerns for returning to the office.

This new rule settles those questions, and it will come as a relief to insurers who had been grappling with whether to create their own requirements. For all insurers, though, there are now challenges around how exactly to implement it. There are still a lot of unknowns around the rule’s specifics, including the timetable for compliance.

Aite-Novarica has been monitoring insurer RTO plans through recurring snap polls of our Insurance Technology Research Council and has published an update on changes in RTO planning for Q4 2021 and Q1 2022. RTO is top of mind for many insurers. While new requirements create some clarity, they add additional complexity to a situation that was already difficult to manage. We will continue to monitor this space closely and welcome insurers to share their thoughts with me ([email protected]) and Head of Life Insurance, Annuities, and Benefits Rob McIsaac ([email protected]).

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