Google is postponing a return to the office for most workers until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone to be vaccinated once its sprawling campuses are fully reopened.
The announcement on Wednesday (US time) came as the more highly contagious Delta variant drives a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations across the US and the rest of the world.
In an email sent to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company was now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning October 18, instead of its previous target date of September 1.
The decision also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.
“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Mr Pichai wrote.
And Mr Pichai disclosed that once offices were fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated.
The requirement will be first imposed at Google’s Mountain View, California, headquarters and other US offices, before being extended to the more than 40 other countries where the Google operates.
Various US government agencies already had announced demands for all their employees to be vaccinated. The corporate world has so far taken a more measured approach, even though many lawyers believe the mandates are legal.
Also in the US, Delta and United airlines already require new employees to show proof of vaccination.
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley require their employees to disclose their vaccination status but have not required staff to be vaccinated.
Google’s vaccine mandate will be adjusted to adhere to the laws and regulations of each location, Mr Pichai wrote, and exceptions will be made for medical and other “protected” reasons.
“Getting vaccinated is one of the most important ways to keep ourselves and our communities healthy in the months ahead,” he said.
It’s unclear how many of Google’s workers have not been vaccinated.
In his email, Mr Pichai described the vaccination rate at the company as high.
Google’s decision to extend its remote-work follows a similar move by Apple, which recently moved its return-to-office plans from September to October too.