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Google employees 'will need to be vaccinated' before returning to offices

Google Ireland said they had no specifics regarding the measure in this country.

Image: Shutterstock/efa2015

Updated Jul 29th 2021, 2:35 PM

GOOGLE HAS TOLD employees that it is rolling out a policy that its workforce must be vaccinated before returning to work in offices.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO made the announcement in an email to the company’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide this morning.

Pichai said that the tech giant is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices by 18 October instead of its previous target date of 1 September.

“First, anyone coming to work on our campuses will need to be vaccinated. We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” he said. 

Pichai did not give specifics about countries and did not mention its Dublin base but did say that the protocol will vary with local regulations.

A spokesperson for Google in Ireland told The Journal that the company had “nothing specific to share on Ireland plans outside the details shared on our blog”. 

dublinireland-march152021googleofficeatone Google's Dublin office block was not mentioned directly by Pichai. Source: Shutterstock

The vaccination requirement will be first introduced at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and other US offices. Later it will be extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates, including Ireland.

“The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area.

“You’ll get guidance from your local leads about how this will affect you, and we’ll also share more details on an exceptions process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other protected reasons,” he added. 

The company said the decision to delay the company’s return to offices was associated with the spread of the Delta variant. 

“At the same time, we recognize that many Googlers are seeing spikes in their communities caused by the Delta variant and are concerned about returning to the office.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai added. 

Facebook, which has offices in Ireland, announced yesterday that they are also to introduce the vaccination requirement in their US offices.

A spokesperson said: We don’t have an update for Ireland because our return to office plans are dependent on government guidance and at the moment our policy remains to be work from home.”

The social media company’s Vice President for People, Lori Goler said yesterday that US office campus workers would be required to be vaccinated.  

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated.

“How we implement this policy in our international offices will depend on local conditions and regulations.

“We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritise everyone’s health and safety, Goler said. 

Speaking at a vaccination centre in Swords this morning, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, said he does not support the same move here in Ireland.

“I think this is a very challenging subject but the workplace is about access to making a livelihood – that’s a very fundamental thing.

“Government will be very cautious, and we’ll avoid, if at all possible, that kind of distinction in terms of people coming back to work in terms of regulating that.

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“We’ve gone about vaccination in this country in a voluntary way – which was to encourage people to be vaccinated, and they have responded well.

“So the approach that we’ve taken may be correct because we have higher vaccination rates than in almost every other country in Europe. We didn’t do it by compulsion, didn’t do it by law. We did it by encouraging people by science, by a good healthy robust debate in a democracy. So that’s my sense of it,” he said.

Richard Grogan, a specialist employment law solicitor, called for greater clarity in Irish law in a blog post. 

“Currently the law is as clear as mud. The lack of clarity is going to lead to litigation by both vaccinated and non vaccinated employees . A lot more clarity is needed. The days of the Government sitting on the fence needs to cease.

“Whatever route is taken the days of two metres apart has to finish. There needs to be absolute clarity for businesses to reopen,” he said. 

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