Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees on Thursday during an all-hands meeting that they will not be required to get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine to return to the office once the social media giant begins reopening its facilities, Facebook tells The Verge. Facebook employs more than 50,000 corporate employees, a vast majority of which have been working from home since the beginning of the year. The news of Zuckerberg’s internal comments was first reported by The Daily Beast.
“Regardless of when vaccines become available, we’ve given our employees the option to work remotely at least until July 2021. Our US offices remain closed and we don’t expect them to open before the COVID-19 vaccines are widely available,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement given to The Verge.
“At today’s company Q&A, Mark said that at this point, we don’t think it will be necessary to require a vaccine for employees to return to work. He also said he’s confident in the vaccine and looks forward to getting one himself,” the statement goes on to say. “Once we return to the office, we will have a number of protocols in place that we expect to include testing, social distancing, wearing masks and other best practices. We continue to work with many experts to define a plan that prioritizes everyone’s health and safety.”
The company’s offices have been closed since March, and in May, Facebook announced a permanent work-from-home policy that gave employees the freedom to choose where they work going forward. But the plan since at least August of this year has been to reopen its offices by July 2021, which is when Facebook employees must declare a permanent residence and opt to either return to work in an office or choose to become a fully remote worker, a decision that may involve decreases in pay depending on where the employee resides.
Throughout its communication regarding remote work, Facebook has said little of how it plans to reopen its offices and, more importantly, what it may require of employees to begin returning to work. Zuckerberg’s internal announcement today marks the first of such declarations, and it makes him the first major tech CEO to stake out a position on whether employees will be required to get vaccinated to return to office work.
Update December 10th, 8:10PM ET: Added statement from Facebook.