As the COVID-19 pandemic wages on, employers all around the world are grappling with how to safely bring workers back into offices and build a hybrid working model.
The primary approach being adopted is vaccine mandates. The US has gone even further with the Biden administration issuing an executive order that requires all companies with more than 100 employees to introduce COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing mandates.
While a federal court has put a hold on this order – and the case is likely to go to the Supreme Court – many employers are forging ahead with vaccine mandates; an example is Google.
Inside Google’s vaccine mandate
Google has been pro-vaccine mandates since the middle of this year, primarily because it is keen to get its workers back in the office, at least part of the time. In fact, it recently moved to spend $2.1 billion to buy its office space in New York, cementing its commitment to having a future of work that involves an office.
In November, it implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all of its US employees that required them to submit proof of their vaccination status by 3 December, whether or not they intended to return to the office.
Those who failed to comply or request an exemption will now be contacted and asked to prove their status by 18 January or risk being placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days, according to an internal memo sent by leadership seen by CNBC.
Those who still failed to comply will then be paid on unpaid personal leave for up to 6 months at which point they would lose their job.
The memo said: “We expect that almost all roles at Google in the US will fall within the scope of the executive order.
“Anyone entering a Google building must be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation that allows them to work or come onsite”.
The company has not given its employees the option of frequent as an alternative to vaccination, as the Biden mandate allows. However, it will try to figure out options for creating remote-only roles that do not “conflict” with the executive order for those who do not want to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
This comes in light of a cadre of employees protesting Google’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. They are against the idea that Google will have a record of workers’ vaccination status: “It normalizes medical intervention compulsion not only for Covid-19 vaccination but for future vaccines and possibly even non-vaccine interventions by extension.
“It justifies the principle of division and unequal treatment of Googlers based on their personal beliefs and decisions. The implications are chilling.”
Will the risk of losing their job encourage Google employees to comply or push them to use the courts to fight back?