The Biden administration will not punish federal employees who do not meet vaccine requirements until 2022, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced Monday.
Through a memo, OMB disclosed to federal agencies and managers that they can hold off on terminating or suspending their employees for not following the Covid-19 vaccine deadline until January 2022, according to The Hill.
OMB further directed the agencies to use education and counseling for unvaccinated workers throughout the holiday season.
“Given that tremendous progress, we encourage your agencies to continue with robust education and counseling efforts through this holiday season as the first step in an enforcement process, with no subsequent enforcement actions, beyond that education and counseling and, if warranted, a letter of reprimand, for most employees who have not yet complied with the vaccination requirement until the new calendar year begins in January,” OMB Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja said in the memo.
The vaccination deadline for federal employees was Nov. 22. However, OMB specified that employees who did not meet the deadline wouldn’t face immediate punishment.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the biggest union representing federal employees, issued a statement following the announcement, praising the Biden administration.
“The administration has done the right thing by listening to federal workers, taking their concerns seriously, and giving those who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated some peace of mind this holiday season,” AFGE President Everett Kelley said. “While we applaud the policy that defers suspensions and removals, we continue to encourage all our members who are able to obtain one of the FDA-approved anti-COVID vaccines as soon as they possibly can.”
Nonetheless, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki argued Monday that the administration was not delaying the deadline for federal employees to be vaccinated when asked about the memo.
“Nothing has changed on our deadline or our approach to the federal employee vaccine requirement,” Psaki told reporters, according to the New York Post. “The deadline was last week, on Nov. 22. And we already have 96.5 percent compliance across a diverse workforce that is the largest in the United States.”
“I can’t assess exactly what led to any confusion, but OMB put out a public statement this morning, conveying that counseling, of course, would be the first step,” Psaki continued. “That’s long been our approach and our policy from the United States government. But it’s inaccurate to suggest or any reporting that we have delayed anything or changed that the deadline has already passed.”
Last week, the Biden administration reported that roughly 92 percent of federal workers had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Other employees have either sought religious or medical exemptions or refused to comply.