Meta Delays Office Reopening, Orders Booster Shots For Staff

Facebook parent Meta Platforms has once again delayed its staff return to corporate offices, in light of the surging infections from the omicron variant of Covid-19.

It was back in August this year when Facebook announced it would delay the return of US staff to their office until 31 January 2022, amid worries about the surge in Covid-19 cases in the United States and elsewhere, because of the Delta variant.

Then last month Meta introduced a new programme called the “office deferral program”, which is designed to give its staff flexibility when it comes to returning to the office. Under the scheme, Facebook staff can delay their return to the office by three to five months, meaning that some employees could push back their office return until June 2022.

Vaccine mandate

The United States has reported daily infections of 705,264 (as of 5 January), as America, and indeed the world, struggle with mass staff shortages in hospitals and other industries due to people calling in sick with the omicron variant.

In light of this, Meta has delayed its US office reopening date and mandated Covid-19 booster shots for staff returning to office.

Facebook staff who opt to return to the office have seen the official reopening date set back to Monday 28 March, from Monday 31 January.

When staff return to the office, they will have to present proof of their booster jabs, Reuters reported.

Both Meta (Facebook) and Alphabet (Google) said last summer they would require staff returning to the office or campus to be fully vaccinated when they return to the office.

Staff consequences

Staff have until 14 March to decide whether to return to the office, request to work remotely full time, or request to work from home temporarily.

Facebook it should be noted permits certain staff to work remotely full time and even relocate to another state, but those employees may have their compensation adjusted based on their new locations.

Last October Facebook considered mandating all its US staff returning to the office or campus, to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccine status.

Staff who are not vaccinated for medical or religious reasons can request such remote work, a spokesperson said.

“Employees who take no action can face disciplinary measures, including termination. Obviously, this would be a last resort,” the spokesperson told Reuters by email.

Corporate attitudes

This mirrors Google’s stance, which has has indefinitely delayed its January return-to-office plan globally.

Google also announced previously that it may also cut the salaries of its staff who opt to work from home indefinitely after office restrictions ease.

It then warned staff refusing to co-operate with vaccinations, will first lose their salary, and then eventually will be fired.

Corporate attitudes in the US are hardening towards vaccine mandates.

Last week, Citigroup reportedly said its US staff who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 by 14 January will be placed on unpaid leave and then fired at the end of the month.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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