What should HR do with the Omicron variant

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As the caller variant is detected successful the U.S., vaccines, connection and adaptability are cardinal to helping workers done the latest signifier of the pandemic, experts say.

<p>The find of the caller COVID-19 variant, Omicron, has healthcare leaders acrophobic astir different surge successful the <a href="https://hrexecutive.com/category/coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pandemic </a>that has present lasted astir 2 years. For employers, it’s reiterating the value of a watchful eye, agile effect and continued effort to support employees harmless during the evolving pandemic.

Danielle Capilla

“The Omicron variant underscores what we already know—employers indispensable stay agile and flexible successful the look of the pandemic and the changing workforce,” says Danielle Capilla, vice president of compliance, worker benefits, astatine Alera Group, a Deerfield, Illinois-based worker benefits firm.

Capilla adds that, though quality of the caller variant—which was archetypal discovered successful South Africa and which U.S. wellness officials confirmed Dec. 1 has officially been detected here—is important to watch, accusation connected the variant and its severity, arsenic good arsenic connected the effectiveness of vaccines arsenic it relates to this variant, is inactive pending. Health experts accidental they volition cognize much astir Omicron successful the coming weeks.

“Until that happens, the Omicron variant remains thing to proceed watching and learning astir earlier making decisions with ample impacts connected worker populations,” she says.

As was the lawsuit with the Delta variant, which started surging nationwide successful precocious summertime and prompted swift and drastic enactment by institution leaders, employers whitethorn person to alteration plans and enactment much information measures successful spot to support employees and support workplaces safe. In effect to the surge of Delta aft what immoderate had hoped was the opening of the extremity of the pandemic, galore employers nixed return-to-office plans, reinstated disguise mandates successful offices and changed people connected COVID-19 vaccines. Scores of employers moved from encouraging vaccines to requiring them for employees.

Vaccination mandates for employees are connected the rise—due to some the rising Delta variant and President Biden’s announcement that helium would necessitate employers with 100 oregon much workers to instrumentality a COVID-19 vaccination request oregon connection a play investigating alternate to those who garbage oregon are incapable to person a vaccine. Though Biden’s mandate is connected clasp owed to ineligible challenges, research retired this week from consulting steadfast Willis Towers Watson finds that 57% of respondents either necessitate oregon program to necessitate COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. The survey of 543 U.S. employers was conducted Nov. 12-18, earlier the find of Omicron.

Although the effectiveness of existing COVID vaccines connected Omicron isn’t clear, the beingness of the caller variant whitethorn spur adjacent much leader enactment connected vaccines—both regarding the superior shots arsenic good arsenic boosters.

Related: COVID booster shots are here. What should employers do?

“Vaccinations proceed to beryllium 1 of the astir important ways to support employees and the assemblage from waves of infection,” says Dr. Jeff Levin-Scherz, colonisation wellness person astatine Willis Towers Watson. “Getting employees vaccinated now, earlier Omicron is wide successful the U.S., could forestall important unwellness and concern disruption.”

In summation to staying the people on, and beefing up, information and wellness measures, employers volition apt proceed to measurement up worker connection astir the latest COVID-19 developments—a signifier galore institution leaders person said is simply a lasting acquisition of the pandemic. Being transparent astir however organizations are handling COVID-19 is important, HR leaders say.

See also: OSHA suspends vaccine enforcement; what’s the adjacent determination for HR?

“Where we’ve focused done the full pandemic is being precise open, honorable and perpetually being successful connection with our associates,” says Lindsey Lanzisero, H&R Block’s vice president of full rewards. “People person been very, precise appreciative of america being transparent and not trying to person each the answers due to the fact that we don’t and everybody knows we don’t,” she says, adding that signifier volition proceed arsenic accusation comes to airy connected Omicron.

The astir important happening employers tin bash close now, experts say, is proceed to absorption connected what they’ve been doing arsenic Delta continues to deed galore parts of the U.S., similar boosting vaccination rates and keeping workplaces safe—and person plans successful spot to beryllium acceptable for immoderate Omicron holds.

“Companies tin commencement to marque contingency plans for workplace information done masks, distancing and distant enactment if Omicron is recovered to beryllium much contagious, particularly if it decreases vaccine effectiveness,” Levin-Scherz says.
Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits exertion and seat of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the amended portion of a decade, and her stories person won aggregate awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She tin beryllium reached astatine kmayer@lrp.com.

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