As part of the Biden administration’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan released yesterday, President Biden issued an executive order adding COVID-19 vaccination requirements affecting nearly all federal contractors. The new mandates are significantly more aggressive than the federal employee COVID-19 safety protocols issued on July 29 that simply required vaccination certification or testing for “every federal government employee and onsite contractor.” Onsite contractors who cannot confirm they are fully vaccinated will still have to follow safety protocols (mask wearing, maintaining workplace social distancing, complying with weekly or twice weekly COVID-19 testing, and limiting official travel). But now most federal contractors – regardless of whether they have employees working on federal property – will soon be required to follow new vaccine mandate requirements, effective with contracts with pending solicitations or entered into on or after October 15. What do federal contractors need to know about these significant new developments?
Which Federal Contractors are Impacted?
Effective immediately, the new rules will apply to any new contract or new contract-like instrument, including a new solicitation, extension, or renewal or exercise of an option, provided it is:
Contracts NOT covered include:
In addition, federal contractors or subcontractors with Walsh-Healey Act contracts (that is, manufacturing contracts) are apparently not covered by the new executive order.
What are the Requirements?
Detailed requirements should follow by September 24, when the Safer Federal Workforce Taskforce issues further “Guidance” specifying the exact requirements for federal contractors. This Guidance must be approved by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Meanwhile, the executive order itself requires that all applicable contracts shall include a flow-down clause to incorporate the safety protocol requirements in lower-tier subcontracts. The clause shall specify that the contractor or subcontractor shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force Guidance at any workplace locations where an individual is “working on or in connection with a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument.”
Thus, these requirements may also apply to remote employees, if they are working on qualifying contracts, although the remote employee issue should be made clear in the Guidance.
Although the Executive Order is effective immediately, certain requirements will apply to new contracts, renewals, and exercises of options on or after October 15, 2021. However, federal contractors with pending solicitations or existing contracts are “strongly encouraged, to the extent permitted by law” to follow the new safety protocols specified in the Guidance.
What Should You Do Next?