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Google tells staff to get vaccinated before coming back to the office

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Google logo - AP
Google logo - AP

Google has told staff to get vaccinated before returning to the office, making the search giant one of the largest employers to require the jab.

Chief executive Sundar Pichai said in an email that vaccination against Covid-19 will be compulsory for employees arriving at work in the US within weeks.

The policy will then be expanded to other countries such as the UK in the coming months depending on factors such as how widely vaccines are available. Google has more than 5,000 employees in Britain and 144,000 globally.

“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” Mr Pichai told staff.

It came as Google pushed back the date it would demand that staff return to offices work amid lingering global concerns over the Delta variant.

The company had said employees would need to start coming back to the office in September, but said it would now require it from October 18. It comes after Apple last week pushed back the date it expects staff to return.

 Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai

Google and Apple, alongside Amazon, have said they expect the majority of staff will work from an office when the pandemic subsides, despite predictions that technology companies would wholeheartedly embrace remote working.

However, Google is the first of the major tech companies to make vaccination compulsory for those who return. In Britain, staff at companies including Bank of America, book publisher Bloomsbury and Pimlico Plumbers have been told they will need to be vaccinated.

Following the news, Facebook also said it would also require workers to be vaccinated to return to its US campuses before evaluating its approach in other regions, according to the Financial Times.

Netflix, meanwhile, will ask actors and those who work in close proximity to them to be vaccinated on its US productions, according to Bloomberg. It introduced the policy after a deal last week between Hollywood unions and major studios, which allowed producers to require vaccination on productions.

Google's Mr Pichai said there would be exemptions for those who could not be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and that introducing the policy worldwide would depend on local regulations. Employers in Britain are able to mandate that staff receive the vaccine.

Netflix also said there will be exemptions for similar reasons, while Facebook said it would have a "process" in place for those who cannot be jabbed.

Google has said workers will require special permission to work from home in the long-term, and that many will be able to do so until the end of the year. It started allowing staff to return voluntarily in April.

Mr Pichai said he was encouraged by employees’ willingness to return to in-person work. “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,” he said.

The company has revamped its offices, adding features such as circular meeting spaces with televisions that are designed to put physical and remote attendees on an even footing, and inflatable walls that allow for temporary privacy.