Covered employers under contract with federal agencies have an additional month to get their employees vaccinated under President Joe Biden’s vaccination mandate, the White House announced Thursday.

The announcement comes alongside new rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on vaccination for employers of 100 people or more and for healthcare workers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

“And third, to make it easy for businesses and workers to comply, we will be aligning the deadline for the previously announced requirement for employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated with these new OSHA and CMS rules. This single, consistent deadline across all three requirements is Jan. 4, 2022,” a senior administration official told reporters on a late Nov. 3 call.

According to that official, contractor employees will need to receive their final vaccine dose by that date or risk penalties.

Contractors initially had until Dec. 8 to get their employees vaccinated per Biden’s executive order.

“We wanted to do this because we’re really aligning it to make it easier — to make it as easy as possible for businesses to implement these requirements and for workers to comply,” the official said.

“That said, there’s no reason to wait, and ... we know that many employers are not waiting. And we hope that employers and workers will get vaccinated as quickly as possible, because that’s obviously our path out of this pandemic.”

According to guidance issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, contractors should determine the best enforcement strategy for employees that refuse to get vaccinated by the deadline, though it recommends modeling enforcement after the planned penalties for federal employees.

Agencies also have the right to deny a non-vaccinated contract employee entry to a federal workplace.

Contractors that willfully refuse to comply with the requirement could face “significant actions” by the contracting agency, such as termination of that contract, but a contractor working in good faith and honestly struggling to comply can receive collaboration assistance from the agency contracting officer.

Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.

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