Google and Facebook have become the first two tech giants to announce they will require their staff to be vaccinated, when they return to offices or campuses.
Google’s announcement came in an email and then a blog post by CEO Sundar Pichai who said the policy would roll out in the United States in the coming weeks, and in other regions in the following months as vaccines become more widely available.
The move by the big name tech firms comes as governments around the world consider introducing so-called vaccine passports to allow people to travel freely. US President Joe Biden is reportedly going to ask civilian federal employees to either be vaccinated, or facing testing.
In his blog post, Google’s Pichai said that Google will start requiring vaccines to work on campus and will extend voluntary work from home until 18 October.
“In March of 2020, we made the early decision to send employees home to slow down the spread of Covid,” he wrote. “We’ve continued to cover the full wages of on campus workers who couldn’t perform their jobs because of office closures. And, we’ve made sure that Googlers and our extended workforce have access to vaccines as soon as they are available locally.”
Pichai said it was encouraging to see very high vaccination rates for our Google community in areas where vaccines are widely available, which is why the firm felt comfortable opening some of its offices to employees who wanted to return early.
“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pcihai wrote. “As we look toward a global return to our offices, I wanted to share two key updates.”
“First, anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated,” Pichai stated. “We’re rolling this policy out in the US in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months.”
Pichai did not reveal how Google intends to enforce this, and what exactly it will do with staff who refuse to be vaccinated.
However, he did say the implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in a staffer’s area.
“Second, we are extending our global voluntary work-from-home policy through 18 October,” Pichai wrote. “We recognise that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office. This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.”
Pichai said Google will continue watching the data carefully and will let staff know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into its full return to office plans.
Google in April had begun accelerating the partial reopening of offices in the United States, and like Apple, sought to get staff to return to the office at least three days a week from 1 September.
But a month later in May 2021 the firm backtracked somewhat and offered staff more flexible options for working at the office or home. It also announced that 20 percent of its workforce would be able to work from home permanently.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted in May 2020 that 50 percent of the company’s employees could be working remotely over the next decade.
Facebook also allows employees to work remotely full time and relocate, but those employees may have their compensation adjusted based on their new locations.
This gives some staff the option to relocate to US states where the cost of housing is more reasonable than it is in California.
But for those Facebook staff seeking to return to office, it (like Google) will require staff to be vaccinated.
A spokesperson posted on Twitter a statement from Facebook VP of People Lori Goler, in which she outlined the company’s new vaccine rule.
“As out offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” Goler wrote. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations.”
“We will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves,” Goler said.
“We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritise everyone’s health and safety,” she concluded.
The vaccination decisions by Google and Facebook come after medical groups in the US mandated Covid-19 vaccines for health care workers.
Last week, Apple said it would delay its reopening until at least October, a month later than initially planned, because of the Delta variant.
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