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Google joins others in Big Tech: Get vaccinated – or you're fired

Not getting a COVID-19 jab? That's not very googley of you

Updated Google has given its anti-vax workers an ultimatum: you're fired unless you comply with its COVID-19 vaccination rules.

That's according to an internal memo to staff obtained by CNBC this week.

Googlers must provide to management proof of coronavirus vaccination, or successfully apply for an exemption on medical or religious grounds. Those who refuse to get the jab or were not granted a pass will be placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days from January 18. After that period, they'll be on unpaid leave for up to six months and then sacked.

Spokespeople for Google did not downplay the authenticity of the leaked email, and simply told us today: "Our vaccination requirements are one of the most important ways we can keep our workforce safe and keep our services running. We're committed to doing everything possible to help our employees who can get vaccinated do so, and firmly stand behind our vaccination policy."

The ads'n'search titan, which employs more than 150,000 people worldwide, earlier this year said only those who work on-site need to be vaccinated. Lately it's indicated it wants most of its staff to return to the office at least three days a week in 2022 – which means they'll need to be jabbed or have an exemption – and said it will cut people's pay in the US if they insist on working remotely away from their flash campuses.

The internet giant is in alignment with, for instance, Cisco, which ordered its US staff to either get vaccinated or be put on unpaid leave and face termination; and IBM, which said it will suspend US workers without pay if they don't get vaxxed.

IBM, for one, argued it needed to take a tough stance on jabs because President Joe Biden signed an executive order stating that federal contractors and subcontractors – such as Big Blue – must be vaccinated.

Under a separate executive order, America's Occupational Safety and Health Administration told businesses with 100 or more employees that they need to get their staff vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19, though that rule was challenged in the courts and is on hold. Google assumes it'll eventually be affected by the order one way or another – or perhaps it's just run out of patience with vaccine refuseniks.

“We expect that almost all roles at Google in the US will fall within the scope of the executive order,” the internal memo read. “Anyone entering a Google building must be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation that allows them to work or come onsite ... Frequent testing is not a valid alternative to vaccination.”

Googlers can apply for an exemption on the basis that they are not subject to these government rules.

Some staff at IBM complained this month that their civil liberties are being ignored. Some Googlers also circulated a manifesto internally complaining about their bosses' vaccination rules. A spokesperson for those who wish to enjoy their freedoms COVID-19-free was not available for immediate comment.

Far be it from us to quote Steve Jobs, but: vaccines, it just works. ®

Updated to add

Today, Apple delayed its return-to-office plans "indefinitely." Staff were due back starting from February 2022, and now that's been held off until further notice.

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