WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccination deadline will not require immediate action on the part of employers against unvaccinated employees when it comes into force on Dec. 8, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said on Wednesday.
Some lawyers previously interpreted President Joe Biden's Sept. 9 executive order and subsequent White House guidance requiring all covered federal contractor employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 unless they got a religious or medical exemption.
The White House comments suggest federal contractors employing millions of U.S. workers have significant flexibility in enforcing COVID-19 rules and will not be required to immediate lay-off workers, but will have time for education, counseling and other measures before potentially ending employment.
Jeff Zients said he expects federal agencies and contractors "will follow their standard HR processes and that for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance they'll go through education, counseling, accommodations and then enforcement."
Zients said he does not expect any disruptions to the U.S. economy as a result of the mandate.
"We're creating flexibility within the system … There is not a cliff here," Zients said, emphasizing the goal is to get people vaccinated "not to punish them so we do not expect any disruptions."