Shots (or You’ll Get) Fired: Google Plans to Ax Unvaccinated Staff

An internal memo from Google's leadership sets out a plan for unvaccinated staff to be put on leave before being fired.
Aaron Drapkin

A leaked memo from Google HQ confirms that the company is planning to terminate the contracts of unvaccinated employees. 

The news comes just weeks after hundreds of the tech giant’s employees signed an open letter in protest against the company’s strident position on staff vaccinations. 

The vaccination drive is part of Google’s push for a hybrid working arrangement for employees which will require them to be in for at least three days a week after the new year. 

What did Google’s memo say?

Google’s employees have known for some time now that they had to upload their vaccine status to the company’s internal systems by December 3rd. 

After this date, Google planned to check in with employees who either failed to do this, uploaded information showing they were unvaccinated, or failed to get their exemption from the vaccine mandate approved. 

According to CNBC, who obtained the leaked documents, staff who have failed to comply with the company's vaccine rules by the January 18th deadline will initially be put on “paid administrative leave” for a month. 

“Our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running.” – Google Spokesperson.

Google will then put them on “unpaid personal leave” for around half a year — employee benefits will run out after 92 days — before terminating their employment their contract of employment. 

Complying With Biden’s Order

On November 4th, the White House warned businesses they would be enforcing a vaccination and testing mandate on companies with staff teams numbering over 100 by January 4th. 

The executive order would require workers to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis or be fully vaccinated. However, Biden’s plans have faced stiff opposition and have been stuck in between court circuits since appeals were lodged — but companies like Google are preparing as if it will eventually pass. 

“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.” – Google’s Memo to Staff. 

In addition to the roles at Google that fall within the scope of the executive order, the company said previously that any staff working on government contracts — be that in the office, from home, or a mixture of the two — would be required to be vaccinated.  

Is Google’s hard line really that hard?

Although Google’s vaccine mandate has been reported on extensively in the media — and a number of employees have raised grievances related to it — the company’s position is more flexible than some reports would suggest. 

For instance, Google gave ample time for employees to lodge exemptions based on both religious and medical grounds, making it clear that these would be decided on a case-by-case basis. 

Employees who can perform their roles outside the office are also permitted to continue without complying with the executive order, and Google said other staff will be able to “explore” if there are any other roles at Google they could take. 

Big Tech’s Different Tacks

Google is really pushing for employees to be back in the office — but only for three days a week. That isn’t surprising, considering the company’s pioneering approach to office design — sometimes called “the Google Effect” by those in the design industry — and the companies long-held views on how the space employees work in impacts performance.

Other companies under the Big Tech umbrella, however, are taking different approaches. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, for instance, said in 2020 that his staff could “work from home forever.”

Facebook and Microsoft have also provided employees with the opportunity to work from home indefinitely. 

Whatever choice your company makes, ensure that staff welfare is front and center of your decision, as well as strict adherence to the laws of the country your business is based in.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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