Google tells US staff to get vaccinated or face losing job

Google’s Irish subsidiary has agreed to pay €218m (£183m) in back taxes to the Irish government, according to company filings.

Google has told its US staff they must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the middle of January or face serious repercussions including a pay cut and ultimately the loss of their job.

Employees were told they were required to have declared their vaccination status and uploaded proof of it, or to have applied for a medical or religious exemption, by 3 December, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC, which first reported the story.

After that date, Google said, it would start to contact workers who were unvaccinated or had not uploaded proof of vaccination, or whose exemption requests had not been approved.

According to the memo, employees who missed a deadline of 18 January to comply with the rules would initially be placed on “paid administrative leave” for 30 days, followed by six months of “unpaid personal leave”. In the final step, Google would terminate the person’s employment.

Google is one of several large US employers to have adopted a “no jab, no job” policy for their workforce, although it appears to have gone a step further than some other firms. Google declined a request to comment.

It had already informed its US workforce that they would need to be vaccinated to return to its corporate buildings. The chief executive, Sundar Pichai, told staff in a memo in July that the policy would initially be implemented in the US before being adopted globally. Vaccination has also been made a requirement by other US tech companies including Uber and Facebook.

Large American corporates have shown themselves to be much more likely to embrace a mandatory vaccination policy than their British counterparts. The US government has ordered companies with more than 100 staff to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or regularly tested for Covid by 18 January.

The employment rights of UK workers, protected in law, have meant British employers are treading more cautiously. Employment lawyers have previously said that many companies and organisations feared accusations of discrimination or even unfair dismissal from staff, and therefore decided to make vaccination a personal choice.

The UK government had to pass legislation to compel care homes to make sure all workers in England were fully vaccinated unless they had a medical exemption.

US financial firms were among the most enthusiastic about bringing workers back to the office and also among the first to tell their teams during the summer that only fully vaccinated staff could return to their headquarters.

On Tuesday the Wall Street bank JPMorgan informed its unvaccinated staff based at its Manhattan offices that they were required to work from home, amid concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant. It had previously allowed unvaccinated staff to work from its New York building provided they were tested twice a week, according to Reuters, which first reported the decision.

In a memo, the bank called on unvaccinated staff to take up the offer of a jab, and asked eligible employees to get a booster vaccination.