WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) – White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday 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.
Zients said the same was true for a Nov. 22 deadline for federal employees to get vaccinated. He 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.”
President Joe Biden issued a pair of executive orders on Sept. 9 to require all executive branch federal employees and federal contractors be vaccinated.
Zients said 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.”
He added: “These processes play out across weeks not days.”
Zients comments were more explicit than those last week.
Some airlines and industry-watchers initially feared an exodus of unvaccinated airline or government employees involved in travel just before the Christmas season.
Southwest Airlines Chief Executive Gary Kelly said last week: “We want our employees to know that nobody is going to lose their job on December 9 if we’re not perfectly in compliance… “We’re not going to fire anybody who doesn’t get vaccinated.”
American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said last week he did not expect any employees to leave as a result of the vaccine mandate.
“We think we’re not going to see anyone leaving American,” he said.
The Cargo Airline Association, a group representing FedEx Corp (FDX.N), United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) and other cargo carriers, said in letter to the White House last week it would be virtually impossible to have 100% of their respective work forces vaccinated by Dec. 8.
Reporting by David Shepardson
Editing by Alistair Bell
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