Several Delaware companies are preparing to return employees to their offices now that a large majority of adults here have been vaccinated and Biden’s vaccination mandate for large companies is taking shape.
The Biden administration’s requirement that employees of companies with 100 or more workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly for the disease is set to take effect on January 4, if challenges from Republican-led states do not prevail.
In the month and a half since Biden announced its intention to issue the mandate, several of Delaware’s largest employers have already introduced their own rules, many with the goal of returning their staff to personal work.
Among the companies that have mandated employees to be vaccinated are Citi, Amtrak and the Wilmington area pharmaceutical manufacturer Incyte. Other companies, such as JPMorgan Chase and AstraZeneca, have testing capabilities.
The federal mandate is aimed at increasing vaccination rates nationwide and giving workers the opportunity to return to personal work to keep businesses open, Biden said, noting that he wishes the rule was not necessary. His administration also requires that health care professionals at facilities funded by Medicare or Medicaid be vaccinated by January 4th.
As it is currently structured, the mandate will be enforced by the Danish Working Environment Authority through employee complaints and occasional personal random checks. The rules do not require employers to provide testing.
It is not clear to what extent the new rules will affect Delaware.
About 245,000 people are employed by the 550 Delaware companies with more than 100 workers, according to data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages provided by the Delaware Department of Labor in September.
DELAWARE COMPANIES: How planned acquisitions will transform one of Delaware’s most well-known companies
Many of the state’s largest employers have already imposed vaccination or test requirements for several weeks. To date, more than 8 out of 10 Delawareans 18 years and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
As the delta variant quickly spread in late summer, ChristianaCare – the largest healthcare system and private employer in Delaware – was among the first companies to require employees to be vaccinated.
Saint Francis Healthcare, Nemours Children’s Health System and Beebe Healthcare have also demanded that employees be vaccinated.
Delaware followed in the footsteps of health systems, announcing in August that government employees as well as long-term care and health workers should be vaccinated or undergo regular tests from September 30th. Delaware added teachers and school staff to the mandate with effect from November 1st. .
The University of Delaware has also demanded that staff and students be vaccinated.
“Experience says that these mandates move the needle a lot on employees’ willingness to be vaccinated,” said Laura Boudreau, an assistant professor at Columbia University who studies labor issues.
In Delaware’s biggest test case, 150 of ChristianaCare’s 14,000 employees were fired when the vaccination mandate took effect in September.
The bid’s mandate will affect companies at the center of some of Delaware’s earliest COVID-19 hot spots. Perdue Farms said it was still evaluating Biden’s mandate, while Mountaire Farms did not respond to a request for comment.
Other companies that have acted personally throughout the pandemic, including major retail and fast food chains such as Walmart, Target and McDonald’s, have stopped mandating vaccinations for frontline workers, and so far are calling on workers to be vaccinated.
This is what it looks like to return to the office
For Barclays, which has phased in 1,300 employees to its Wilmington Riverfront offices over the past few days, the decision to mandate on-site staff to be vaccinated was driven by security concerns, said Denny Nealon, CEO of Barclays US Consumer Bank. Unvaccinated employees must work from home. Nealon hopes they can be folded in if the pandemic continues to regress.
Barclay’s approach will emphasize flexibility. Employees are asked to work from the office three days a week and can work where they want the other two days.
During the pandemic, Barclays renovated its Wilmington office to incorporate more collaboration spaces, freeing the building of all its cubicles in favor of standing desks, wide screens and sofas and armchairs. The goal is for employees to spend their personal time collaborating with colleagues and their time at home to make calls and perform work better suited to private environments.
“There is a lot of work that can be done that we have proven we can do from home,” Nealon said. “But the speed at which you can move when you do not have to schedule a call, or you can just quickly talk to someone down the hall – the impromptu kind of engagements – I think it speeds up decision-making and idea.”
According to Kastle Systems, which makes access card systems, 34.2% of the Philadelphia subway (including New Castle County) returned to the office in the third quarter.
Wills Elliman, senior CEO at Newmark, said that when he leaves the pandemic, he expects most companies will retain a physical office presence. He continues with a pre-pandemic trend, expecting more companies to reduce and reorient their premises to meet a hybrid schedule.
“Instead of having everyone assigned a job, the workspace becomes fluid and you can just walk in,” Elliman said.
The Associated Press contributed.
Contact Brandon Holveck at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @holveck_brandon.