OSHA and BSCAI Discuss New Employer Requirements on COVID-19 Vaccinations
BSCAI recently participated in a high-level briefing by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding the announcement that employers with 100+ employees will be required to ensure that all employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or require weekly COVID tests. This will take the form of an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to be issued by OSHA. The rule will also require employers with 100 or more employees to provide paid time off for vaccinations or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination.
OSHA shared several key details with BSCAI regarding the timing of the ETS, opportunities for stakeholder input and others. Below is a summary:
- OSHA plans to issue the ETS in the coming weeks, ranging from 2 to 8 weeks. There is currently no precise date or a more narrow timeframe;
- The ETS will be made effective immediately when published by OSHA;
- OSHA will provide stakeholders the opportunity to provide input after the ETS is issued and made effective;
- The 100 employee threshold will apply to the employee count and not a single worksite; and
- The testing/vaccination requirement will not apply to employees working remotely or employees who are physically isolated from co-workers.
BSCAI will share additional information as it becomes available. For questions, contact Kevin McKenney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
House Committees Advance Budget Reconciliation Plan
Several committees in the House of Representatives recently marked up and approved legislation to be included in President Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation plan, known as the “Build Back Better Act.” These bills will now be combined into a single piece of legislation which will be considered by the full House later this fall.
Of note for the building service contractor industry, the Build Back Better Act would levy $2 trillion in new taxes on individuals and businesses over the next decade and make several changes to the nation’s immigration system. The House markups are just the first step in the budget reconciliation process and a number of Senators have expressed concerns with provisions in the House’s bill, including tax increases.
BSCAI is closely monitoring the budget reconciliation process and will be sure to keep members updated on the latest developments. Below is a brief summary of provisions included in the Build Back Better Act:
- Increases the top individual income rate from 37% to 39.6%.
- Repeals the section 199A 20% pass-through deduction for taxpayers with incomes above $400,000 (single) and $500,000 (married).
- Includes a 3% surtax on individuals (including pass-throughs) with incomes over $5 million.
- Applies a 3.8% Medicare surtax to business income greater than $400,000 (single) and $500,000 (married).
- Increases the top corporate rate from 21% to 26.5%. The rate structure provides for a rate of 18% on the first $400,000 of income; 21% on income up to $5 million, and a rate of 26.5% on income thereafter. The benefit of the graduated rate phases out for corporations making more than $10 million.
- Includes new limitations on the ability to deduct interest on business loans.
- Increases the top capital gains rate to 25%.
- Phases out the increased estate tax exemption by the end of 2021. This would reduce the exemption to roughly $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples.
- Immigration: Provides a path to permanent residence for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) DACA recipients, Temporary Protected Status holders, and essential workers. Also restores the availability of immigrant visas lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and bureaucratic delay.
- Paid Leave: Provides up to 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave for all U.S. workers.
IRS Issues Guidance on Reporting Qualified Paid Leave Wages
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service recently issued Notice 2021-53 which provides guidance to employers about reporting on Form W-2 the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees for leave taken in 2021. The notice provides guidance under recent legislation, including: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as amended by the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Employers will be required to report these amounts to employees either on Form W-2, Box 14, or in a separate statement provided with the Form W-2. The guidance provides employers with model language to use as part of the Instructions for Employee for the Form W-2 or on the separate statement provided with the Form W-2.
The wage amount that the notice requires employers to report on Form W-2 will provide employees who are also self-employed with the information necessary to determine the amount of any sick and family leave equivalent credits they may claim in their self-employed capacities.
Additional information about tax relief for employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on IRS.gov.
OSHA Issues Updated Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated Workers from COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from COVID-19. OSHA’s updated guidance reflects the latest recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC).
The updated guidance expands information on appropriate measures for protecting workers in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers, particularly for industries such as manufacturing; meat, seafood and poultry processing; high volume retail and grocery; and agricultural processing, where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and/or non-workers.
OSHA's latest guidance:
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers;
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with COVID-19 wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative COVID-19 test at least 3-5 days after such contact;
- Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing; and;
- Links to the latest guidance on K-12 schools and CDC statements on public transit.
OSHA continues to recommend vaccinations as the optimal step to protect workers and encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to implement multi-layered approaches to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from COVID-19.
DOL Announces Annual Update to Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
The U.S. Department of Labor recently issued a Federal Register notice announcing an annual update to the current Executive Order 13658 minimum wage for workers performing work on or in connection with covered contracts. As announced in the Federal Register notice, the Executive Order 13658 minimum wage rate will increase from $10.95 to $11.25 per hour effective Jan. 1, 2022. The new rate must generally be paid to workers performing work on or in connection with covered contracts.
Covered contracts that are entered into on or after Jan. 30, 2022 – or that are renewed or extended (pursuant to an option or otherwise) on or after Jan. 30, 2022 – will be generally subject to a higher minimum wage rate of $15 per hour established by Executive Order 14026, “Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors,” signed by President Biden on April 27, 2021.
Biden Administration Will Not Seek Extension of Supplemental Unemployment Insurance
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh recently sent a letter to Congress announcing that President Biden will not seek an extension of emergency COVID-19 supplemental unemployment insurance programs which expired on Sept. 6, 2021.
These programs, which have been in place since the start of the pandemic, provided unemployed workers with an additional $300 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits. The Biden administration cited an improving labor market and unemployment rate as reasons for not seeking an extension of the benefits.