Google says staff must get vaccine before return to office

Apple reintroduces mask rules for shops as delta variant flares

Google says it will require employees who return to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Google says it will require employees who return to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

Google says it will require employees who return to the company’s offices to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. It also said it would push back its official return-to-office date to mid-October from September, joining a host of other companies whose plans have been scrambled in recent days by the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, announced the news in a note to employees on Wednesday.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Mr Pichai wrote. He added that the vaccine mandate would apply to US office locations “in the coming weeks” and to other regions “in the coming months”.

Google has more than 144,000 employees globally. A Google spokeswoman said the company did not have any current vaccination rates to share, although Mr Pichai wrote that it was “encouraging to see very high vaccination rates” among employees in places where vaccines were widely available.

Mr Pichai also said in the note that Google’s voluntary work-from-home policy was being extended through October 18th. Previously, employees had been planning to return in September, though no specific date had been set.

“We recognise that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office,” Mr Pichai wrote. “This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it.”

The decision followed a similar announcement from Apple, which said last week that it would push back the date by which employees would need to return to its offices, to October from September.

Apple also plans to restore a mask requirement at most of its US retail stores on for both customers and staff from Thursday, even those who are vaccinated.

The company informed retail staff of the move in a memo yesterday. Apple had already started requiring masks for employees at select stores earlier this month. It had also been requiring masks for customers in a few counties based on local guidelines.

“After carefully reviewing the latest CDC [US Centre for Disease Control] recommendations, and analysing the health and safety data for your local area, we are updating our guidance on face masks for your store,” Apple told staff. “Starting July 29th, face masks will be required in store for customers and team members – even if they’re vaccinated.”

The company added it is making the change “out of an abundance of caution.” It also urged retail staff to get vaccinated, but is not requiring it at this time.

Some Google employees have been returning to work in the office on a voluntary basis. In California, as the delta variant of the coronavirus surged, workers began donning masks in Google offices again.

Silicon Valley tech companies like Google led the push to remote work in the beginning of the pandemic, but Google has not fully pivoted away from office work, and it has said that it expects most employees to eventually return to in-person work at least three days a week. – New York Times / Bloomberg