Jun 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Cap for on-site federal workers lifts without requirement for COVID vaccines

Photo of the Department of Labor building on a sunny day with a sign in front of it that says its name

Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

Federal agencies no longer need to limit the number of employees allowed in workspaces, the Biden administration told agency heads Thursday.

Why it matters: "The guidance is likely to be closely watched in the private sector, as the federal government is the country’s largest employer, with roughly 2.1 million employees," the Washington Post writes.

  • Federal agencies have been operating at 25% in-person capacity since January.

Details: Though the U.S. government has said employers have the right to mandate vaccination, the Biden administration told agencies they should not require federal workers to disclose vaccination status.

  • The administration is retaining a policy that allows "maximum telework flexibilities."
  • Agencies’ "eventual post-pandemic operating state may differ in significant ways from [their] pre-pandemic operating state,” officials wrote in the memo to department heads.
  • Federal agencies are charged with finalizing reentry plans by July 19.

Worth noting: "The new policy appears aimed at striking a balance between showing the public the administration has turned a corner on the pandemic and giving federal workers and the unions that represent them — key constituencies for President Biden — flexibility to make child-care arrangements and return to work slowly," the Post reports.

  • "The incremental approach may also reflect a wariness that Biden’s goal of having 70 percent of the country vaccinated by July is optimistic, particularly in conservative states where there are many federal offices."
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