By: Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget

Today, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (the Task Force) released new guidance on COVID-19 workplace safety protocols for Federal contractors and subcontractors. This action is a key step in implementing part of the President’s Path Out of the Pandemic: COVID-19 Action Plan. The guidance issued today advances one of the main goals of this science-based plan: getting more people vaccinated.

On September 9, President Biden signed Executive Order 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors (the order), which directs executive departments and agencies to ensure that contracts and contract-like instruments covered by the order include a clause requiring the contractor—and their subcontractors at any tier—to, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Task Force. These workplace safety protocols will apply to all covered contractor employees, including contractor or subcontractor employees in covered contractor workplaces who are not working on a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument. The order directed the Task Force to issue the guidance released today.

Pursuant to the order, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has determined that compliance by Federal contractors and subcontractors with the COVID-19-workplace safety protocols detailed in Task Force’s guidance will promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting.  These safeguards will decrease the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors performing work for the Federal Government. 

More information about the applicability of the order to contracts and contract-like instruments can be found in my September 10 OMB Blog post.

Overview of Workplace Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

Pursuant to the guidance issued today, and in addition to any requirements or workplace safety protocols that are applicable because a contractor or subcontractor employee is present at a Federal workplace, Federal contractors and subcontractors with a covered contract will be required to conform to the following workplace safety protocols:

  1. COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation;
  2. Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces; and
  3. Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

Covered contractor employee means any full-time or part-time employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract or working at a covered contractor workplace. This includes employees of covered contractors who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract, but does not include contractor employees who only perform work outside the United States or its outlying areas. Covered contractor workplaces are locations controlled by a covered contractor at which any employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract is likely to be present during the period of performance for a covered contract.

Vaccination of Covered Contractor Employees

Covered contractors must ensure that all of their covered employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, unless the employee is legally entitled to an accommodation. Covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated no later than December 8, 2021. After that date, all covered contractor employees must be fully vaccinated by the first day of the period of performance on a newly awarded covered contract, and by the first day of the period of performance on an exercised option or extended or renewed contract when the clause has been incorporated into the covered contract. Contractor employees working on a covered contract from their residence also must comply with the vaccination requirement for covered contractor employees.

Masking and Physical Distancing While in Covered Contractor Workplaces

Covered contractors must ensure that all individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, comply with published CDC guidance for masking and physical distancing at a covered contractor workplace. The Task Force’s guidance issued today includes more details on these masking and physical distancing requirements, which do not apply to the residences of covered contractor employees.

COVID-19 Coordinator Designation

Covered contractors must designate a person or persons to coordinate implementation of and compliance with these workplace safety protocols at covered contractor workplaces. Their responsibilities to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety protocols may comprise some or all of their regular duties.

Looking Ahead

The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (or, FAR Council) will, by October 8, issue guidance for agencies to—starting on October 15—add a clause related to these COVID-19 workplace safety protocols to covered Federal procurement solicitations and contracts subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). Agencies that are responsible for covered contracts and contract-like instruments not subject to the FAR also will take prompt action to ensure that those covered contracts and contract-like instruments include the clause, starting on October 15.

Consistent with applicable law, agencies are strongly encouraged to incorporate a clause requiring compliance with this Guidance into contracts that are not covered or directly addressed by the order because the contract is under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (as defined in section 2.101 of the FAR) or is a contract or subcontract for the manufacturing of products. Agencies are also strongly encouraged to incorporate a clause requiring compliance with this guidance into existing contracts and contract-like instruments prior to the date upon which the order requires inclusion of the clause.

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