27 Aug 2021

MoFo mandates vaccines for office work as London reopening looms

US firm first to require UK vaccinations; Linklaters and Katten make small adjustments from official Covid-19 guidance

By BaLL LunLa; Shutterstock

Morrison & Foerster has become the first law firm in the UK known to be requiring staff to be fully vaccinated before they can return to the office.

The move – made in preparation for the firm’s 13 September London office reopening date – is in line with the policies of dozens of firms in the US, but currently puts it out on a limb in the UK, where the government is only mandating vaccinations for care home workers, from November

Two other firms, however, have introduced policies that are stricter than current guidance, but fall well short of mandatory vaccinations.

Katten and – according to a report in The Lawyer – Linklaters are both asking fully vaccinated staff who have been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 not to go into work until they have received the results of a PCR test. This contrasts with government guidance which allows fully vaccinated staff to continue working at their office pending the results of a test.

Katten’s London managing partner, Christopher Hitchins, has ruled out mandating vaccines at his office unless government guidance changes. He predicted most UK businesses would take the same line, only making minor adjustments “over and above” the guidance, such as his office’s policy for close contact employees.

He added: “US firms in London are more likely than UK firms to require vaccinations because they will be influenced by their head office and because the delta variant has only recently emerged in the US hence increased anxiety levels at a time when employers had planned a return to the office. Therefore, I suspect MoFo won’t be the only firm to adopt such a policy.”

MoFo said its decision to mandate vaccines, which was first reported in Legal Cheek, had been taken following advice from its consultant epidemiologist as its 13 September office opening date neared.

“As the pandemic continues, we have made the decision to require anyone going into the London office to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19,” a spokesperson said. “Those not fully vaccinated will continue to work remotely. The requirement to wear a mask in common areas and to social distance also remains in place.”

The firm is implementing a phased return to work with lawyers and trainees ‘expected’ to work one core day per week from 13 September with an expectation this will increase to two days from 18 October.

Mid-September has emerged as the benchmark return-to-office work date for leading UK firms, most of which have also introduced new hybrid working arrangements in recognition of the lasting impact Covid-19 has had on work life balance expectations.

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