03 Sep 2021

Latham & Watkins mandates Covid-19 vaccines for US workforce

Global giant joins majority of leading firms mandating jabs, with all staff required to be fully vaccinated by 18 October

Latham

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Latham & Watkins has become the latest top US law firm to mandate Covid-19 vaccines for US personnel, setting an 18 October deadline for staff to be fully vaccinated.

The decision was communicated to staff in a memo circulated on Wednesday, when the firm said staff should be fully vaccinated by 18 October unless they have been exempted on medical or religious grounds. It also revealed that 95% of its personnel have already verified that they are fully vaccinated, including 'virtually 100%' of partners.

'In light of the extensive data regarding vaccine efficacy and the FDA's recent full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, we are requiring all US personnel to verify to the firm they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or seek approval for a medical or religious exemption,' the memo, posted on Above the Law, stated.

The memo sets two deadlines for staff. They must either have had a single jab, or the first dose of a double vaccination, by 13 September. If taking two jabs, to be deemed as fully vaccinated on 18 October they must have had the second dose at least two weeks before that deadline.

According to research by nQ Zebraworks, more than two thirds (68%) of large law firms in the US are now mandating vaccines for attorneys returning to their offices. Among the leading firms yet to join this grouping thus far are Baker McKenzie, Jones Day and White & Case. Around a third of the firms being tracked have postponed planned office returns.

Latham’s move, which is not tied to its mid-September US office reopening schedule, takes place against the background of a surge of Covid-19 infections in the US due to the prevalence of the highly contagious Delta variant at a time when vaccination rates are behind those achieved in many European countries.

In the UK, meanwhile, with the notable exception of Morrison & Foerster, law firms are not mandating vaccines even as the mid-September office opening date being adopted by most practices looms.

MoFo made its decision to mandate vaccines for UK staff returning to the office – which will fully reopen on 13 September – last week.

While some companies are requiring vaccines in the UK, the fact this policy is not part of official guidence makes the move more contentious. Last month Katten’s London head, employment specialist Christopher Hitchins, said the firm was 'not intending to pursue a mandatory vaccination policy... unless or until such time as the government guidance changes’.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development recently told its 160,000 members that employers ‘cannot forcibly vaccinate employees or potential employees’ unless legally required, according to The Guardian.

The UK government is currently only planning to mandate vaccinations for care home workers, a policy that comes into force from November

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