WASHINGTON, DC — After Joe President Biden announced government agencies are developing a rule to require all employers with 100+ employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or test weekly, some employers’ heads are spinning with concern over the logistics and price tags that come with realistically keep their employees safe.

This hot topic was at the core of a recent webinar hosted by the American Bakers Association (ABA), where members of the Canadian-based ingredient production company Lallemand and a representative of the Rapid Action Consortium (RAC) came together to discuss how to create an effective and cost-friendly testing program.


The RAC is a group of private-sector organizations, non-profits, academics and scientists working together to reduce the cost and complexity associated with rapid antigen testing in the US. Although the group originated in Canada, it expanded to include US companies and combines the purchasing power of multiple organizations to provide better access to research and testing materials. Through the group’s research and pilot sites, it determined that the best bang for the buck in companywide testing is the take-home rapid test.

“The best option for private companies is rapid antigen over-the-counter tests,” said Katia Fox, VP of operations modernization at Genpact and member of the RAC. “We have found these give our member organizations a great deal of flexibility without taking on liability or risk.”

At-home rapid tests are among the most convenient for companies that have employees who travel, as they can be taken at home, in the hotel room, in the car and beyond. And when done twice a week, the tests can be up to 30% more effective than a single polymerase chain reaction — or PCR — test done once a week. Additionally, results come in 10-15 minutes opposed to 48 hours, making it easy to administer on-site and know who has a risk of spreading the virus almost instantly. Once a positive rapid test is identified, that employee would then get a PCR to confirm and then begin the quarantine period.

“This allows you to focus on those who have a high enough viral load to transfer to others, which is what’s important in the workplace,” Fox said.

“This required a lot of collaboration since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “We have had to learn and adapt quickly to changes throughout the pandemic, and having our leadership buy into the process has been essential.”


But even after identifying the most efficient tests, it can be hard for businesses to get their hands on them. But if a business is a member company with the RAC, the organization has strong purchasing influence, meaning bigger bargaining power and a higher likelihood of accessibility to tests.

Lallemand is one such member that has put mandatory testing in practice in its Canadian and US locations. The beginning of the process was slow, but it ramped up as the delta variant became more serious. Antione Chagnon, president and CEO of Lallemand, said he looks as it as an extra form of protection as infections continue to occur.

“We see it as an additional layer of protection on top of masks, social distancing and vaccination,” he said. “In sites with high rates of the delta variant, you can still fall ill.”

Joanie Denis, Lallemand’s organizational development and people and culture partner, also expanded on what worked for the company and the importance of creating a team to champion the operation and a realistic timeline. She recommended that a core operations and communications team be established, then a project schedule be laid out to determine pilot testing sites, the number of tests required and if a company will be testing just unvaccinated employees or both vaccinated and unvaccinated. Once that’s complete, a screening approach can be determined, and the team can move into inventory management and ordering supplies.

Audrey St. Onge, president and CEO of North American bakers yeast business at Lallemand, said it was an effort that took immense teamwork and coordination, but it paid off.

“This required a lot of collaboration since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “We have had to learn and adapt quickly to changes throughout the pandemic, and having our leadership buy into the process has been essential.”

Having the support of the c-suite has been critical for Lallemand, especially when employees are resistant or have questions about the new policies. St Onge said it’s important to illustrate the benefits of testing and to have empathy to employees who might be apprehensive.

“Getting employees to buy into this and managing the supplies are two of the biggest challenges we have faced so far,” she said. “We did get some resistance at first, but most people know how easy these tests are now.”


As more provisions are being solidified, the question on many people’s minds is how much this will cost and who will be paying for it. Although there are no specifics yet, Fox said that the cheapest rapid test prices the RAC has seen have been $7 a piece, but they’re averaging about $8-9. President Biden has promised that tests will be available at cost, so many will be paying attention to the price tag as more regulations come into effect. As of now, employers are bearing the financial brunt for the tests, but St Onge said she could see the responsibilities shifting as vaccination rates increase.

“We will have to see how things change,” she said. “It’s mostly the burden on the employer right now, but it could be that it shifts toward the unvaccinated as we move forward.”

Although the pandemic landscape morphs each day, one thing is for certain: The tests are working so far. Out of 23,000 tests administered by RAC members, 25 were confirmed positive. And although that may seem like a small number, it has likely saved many employees from getting sick.

“Those could have prevented potentially hundreds of other infections,” Chagnon said. “And because of these tests, those people never set foot in the office.”