Google will no longer require U.S. staffers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus as a condition of employment, and it scaled back some COVID-safety restrictions as it expects more workers to return to the internet giant’s office in the coming weeks.
Google is dropping the requirement that vaxxed U.S. employees get weekly COVID tests before they come into the office, and it also will no longer require them to wear masks in the office (subject to local government guidelines). However, unvaccinated staffers must still be masked and get tested if they are returning to Google facilities.
In addition, Google plans to reinstate many office perks — which it had suspended during the pandemic — including reopening cafeterias, fitness centers and game rooms, as well as resuming commuter shuttles and on-site massage services, according to a memo to San Francisco Bay Area employees last week.
CNBC first reported Google’s updated COVID office policies Wednesday. Previously, Google had told employees that they would need to be vaccinated (or receive an exemption) by Jan. 18 or they would face the prospect of having their pay docked or losing their job.
Google has not set an official return-to-work date for staffers but says it is gearing up for a “hybrid” model in which employees come into the office at least three days per week. For now, most Google staffers have the option to come in to the office on a voluntary basis; last week, according to the company, 30% of employees in the Bay Area worked in the office.
“We’re giving employees who welcome the chance to come into the office the option to do that wherever we safely can, while allowing those who aren’t ready to keep working from home,” a Google rep told CNBC.