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Canadian banks further delay employees' return to offices as COVID cases surge

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By Nichola Saminather 

  TORONTO, April 7 (Reuters) - Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) said on Wednesday they are extending work-from-home arrangements for employees to until at least mid-2021 as Canada battles a surge in new coronavirus cases driven by new variants. 

  BMO, the country's fourth-largest lender, won't ask workers to return to offices until at least the end of the school year, Chief Executive Darryl White said in an interview. The school year typical runs to May or June in the United States and Canada. 

  CIBC, the No. 5 bank, expects the majority of employees currently working remotely to continue doing so until at least September, according to an internal blog posting by Sandy Sharman, group head of people, seen by Reuters. 

  Beyond those time frames, return dates remain uncertain, both banks said. BMO employees will return gradually depending on the progress of coronavirus vaccinations, White said. 

  Late last year, major Canadian banks said they planned to get their employees back into offices by spring after working remotely since the start of the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago. 

  The pandemic has normalized "remote work for much of our team," Sharman said in the blog post. "The future of how and where we work will blend the best of both on-site and remote work." 

  CIBC took a C$84 million ($67 million) charge in the first quarter of fiscal 2021 due to early office lease terminations. 

  BMO has not yet made decisions about its real estate needs, White said. ($1 = 1.2611 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)