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Google Mandates COVID-19 Vaccinations For Returning Workers, Delays Return-To-Office Plan

‘Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,’ Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai told employees in an email today.

During Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s opening remarks for the company’s second-quarter earnings call on Tuesday, he acknowledged that new COVID-19 variants were challenging for many communities around the world, and he encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“As the pandemic evolves, we want to help people get the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe,” Pichai said during the call with financial analysts. “I really encourage everyone to get the vaccine when it’s available to you.”

That now applies to Googlers planning to return to the company’s offices: Pichai today said that Google will start requiring vaccines for employees who want to work on its campuses — starting with those in the United States — with some allowable exceptions. Google also is extending its voluntary work-from-home policy, according to Pichai, who cited the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19.

Getting vaccinated is one of the “most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Pichai said in an email to Google employees this morning, an edited version of which was posted to the company’s website.

“…Anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated,” Pichai said. “We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months. The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area. You’ll get guidance from your local leads about how this will affect you, and we’ll also share more details on an exceptions process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other protected reasons.”

Google is extending its global voluntary work-from-home policy through Oct. 18.

“We are excited that we’ve started to re-open our campuses and encourage Googlers who feel safe coming to sites that have already opened to continue doing so,” Pichai said in the email to employees. “At the same time, we recognize 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.”

Google will continue watching COVID-19 data and alert employees at least 30 days in advance before the company transitions to its full return-to-office plans, Pichai said.

“For those of you with special circumstances, we will soon be sharing expanded temporary work options that will allow you to apply to work from home through the end of 2021,” he said. “We’re also extending Expanded Carer’s Leave through the end of the year for parents and caregivers.”

In May, Google said it expected its future lies in a hybrid work model under which some 60 percent of Googlers would spend a few days per week in the office, 20 percent would work in new office locations and another 20 percent would work from home.

A Google spokesperson in March had said the company wasn’t requiring vaccinations for employees to return to in-office work, but was “strongly encouraging it. Google now is joining an increasing number of public and private companies and governmental bodies requiring employees to get vaccinated to return to in-office work or face mandated testing.

“I hope these steps will give everyone greater peace of mind as offices reopen,” Pichai said. “Seeing Googlers together in the offices these past few weeks filled me with optimism, and I’m looking forward to brighter days ahead.”

Google was one of the first major U.S. companies to advise its North American employees to work from home, if their roles allowed, back in early March 2020, a day before the World Health Organization declared a global coronavirus pandemic.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve put the wellbeing of our Google community front and center,” Pichai said. “In March of 2020, we made the early decision to send employees home to slow down the spread of COVID. Since then, we’ve extended our Carer’s Leave coverage to help employees care for loved ones. 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 he was encouraged by the “very high” vaccination rates for the Google community in areas where vaccines are widely available.

“This is a big reason why we felt comfortable opening some of our offices to employees who wanted to return early,” he said. “And I have to say it’s been great to see Googlers brainstorming around whiteboards and enjoying meals in cafes again in the many offices that have already re-opened globally.”

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