Meta, formerly Facebook, has extended its return-to-office date to March 28 amid a surge of Omicron-related infection cases, with an additional mandatory booster shot requirement for those who plan to come back to the office.
Meta has flip-flopped on its office-return dates and requirements over the past two years with a series of inconsistent messages. In December 2020, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that employees do not need a vaccine and there were plans to reopen offices in July, which was then changed to May, and then a host of new regulations were passed in June.
Meta has now given employees till March 14 to decide whether to come back at the end of the month, extend work-at-home, or permanently opt for remote work.
“We’re focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current COVID-19 landscape,” Janelle Gale, Meta VP of human resources, said in an emailed statement to The Epoch Times. “We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we’re giving more time to choose what works best for them.”
If a staff member plans on working remotely, they need to seek a deferral from the company that lasts for a period of three to five months.
“Our health and safety protocols require anyone coming to work at any of our U.S. offices to be vaccinated. Additionally, starting March 28, 2022, proof of a booster vaccine will be required for those who meet eligibility guidelines,” added Meta spokesperson Tracy Clayton.
Employees can request medical or religious exemptions for the vaccines, however, “employees who take no action can face disciplinary measures, including termination. Obviously, this would be a last resort,” said a company representative, according to Reuters.
The spike in COVID-19 cases due to the highly-transmissible Omicron variant has delayed the opening of offices across the country. Though Omicron spreads fast, most symptoms have been shown to be mild, requiring fewer hospitalizations and resulting in fewer deaths.
Vaccine mandates have sparked employee shortages across various industries and many companies are struggling to meet consumer demand. Meta is one of the first major companies in the country requiring all returning employees to receive at least one booster shot.
Besides companies, CES, touted to be the world’s biggest tech show, held the event last month with fewer big names like T-Mobile, Meta, and Amazon who pulled out because of infection concerns. Companies like Intel chose to participate, but through digital media, while many others reduced their presence. CES wrapped up a day earlier than planned.
The Grammys announced a postponement of the event date, and the Sundance Film Festival modified plans for this year as the show will be airing entirely online.
Big Tech companies like Apple have not decided on a return date for employees after delaying their December and February dates. Google and Microsoft, similarly, have not made any definitive announcements. Amazon said in October that it would let individual teams decide on when they want to return to offices.