Governor Cuomo recently announced that all healthcare workers in New York State, including staff at hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, adult care, and other congregate care settings – will be required to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination by September 27, 2021. This announcement expands the state’s previous vaccination mandate for patient-facing employees in state-run hospitals by opening the requirement to ALL healthcare workers and staff working in those settings and removing the distinction of state versus private medical care settings.
In the coming days, the State Department of Health will issue Section 16 Orders requiring all hospitals, long-term care facilities, and nursing homes to develop and implement a policy mandating vaccinations for their employees, with limited exceptions allowed for religious or medical reasons. Here is what you need to know to prepare your medical spa for these coming mandates in order to stay compliant.
1. Evaluate whether your medical spa will fall under the authority of the order.
As of now it is unclear if the vaccination requirement will apply to healthcare workers outside of the listed service providers. The announcement specifies “congregate care settings,” which implies the order will be aimed towards long-term care facilities and may not extend further than that. If your medical spa operates as a private medical facility and is not part of a hospital, long-term care facility, nursing home or other congregate care facility, further action may not be required at this time. Until the official order is issued, it is important to begin thinking about where you fall on this spectrum so that you can be prepared to take action if necessary.
2. If necessary, start developing a vaccination policy.
If you do believe that you will fall under the Section 16 Order, it is time to begin drafting a vaccination policy. According to the announcement, employers will be responsible for developing and implementing a vaccination policy compliant with the order. Come up with a plan that ensures your workers begin the vaccination process by the September 27th cutoff date. Make sure that your plan is compliant with the limited religious and medical exceptions to the vaccination requirement when those exceptions are published.
3. Be aware of labor laws protecting employee rights regarding vaccinations.
New York State has legislation in place that protects employees’ labor rights in regards to getting vaccinated. New York State Labor Law Section 196(c) requires employers to provide workers up to four hours of paid leave for each COVID-19 vaccination at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Additionally, OSHA has issued an emergency temporary standard requiring that employers (whose employees provide health care or health care support services) aid COVID-19 vaccination for each employee by providing reasonable time off and paid leave for each vaccination and any side effects. Make sure you offer these benefits to your employees and account for how these offers might affect your profits. Even if it causes you to lose a little money, a lawsuit would cost a lot more.
4. Be aware of any dually employed staff who might be required to get the vaccine in the coming days because of a second job.
It is likely that even if your medical spa does not have to mandate vaccines for your employees, some of your employees might have to still receive the vaccine because of a second job they hold. Ensure that you are compliant with the labor laws above and that you have adequate staff on hand to cover for employees who might miss work time to get vaccinated or recover from the vaccine. You do not want to be unprepared for staff shortages.
5. Prepare for additional orders to extend the vaccination requirement.
Lastly, even if you do not believe this particular order will affect your medical spa, the wording in the announcement suggests that more orders might be issued in the days to come, so you still should be prepared to take action if necessary. Governor Cuomo states that more needs to be done. He has “strongly urged private businesses to take action,” but “private businesses will not enforce a vaccine mandate unless it’s the law.” It would not be surprising to see extended orders further expounding who falls under vaccination requirement orders.
While the governor’s announcement may not directly impact your medical spa, it may have indirect impacts and speak to potential changes ahead. Lengea Law can help you to determine if your medical spa falls under the current regulations and can also assist in drafting or reviewing a vaccination policy that keeps you compliant with the latest COVID-19 related changes in law.