Amazon is extending its corporate work-from-home policy through January of next year. The company is also planning to continue restricting nonessential business travel through the end of the year. Amazon’s decision aligns with those of Facebook and Google, both of which have announced work-from-home policies that extend through 2020. Microsoft has plans to reopen its offices in phases starting this October, while Apple is currently deliberating keeping its offices closed through the end of the year, Bloomberg reported earlier this week.
“We continue to prioritize the health of our employees and follow local government guidance. Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until January 8th,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement. “We have invested significant funds and resources to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and by providing face coverings and hand sanitizer.”
This policy only applies to Amazon’s corporate workforce. The company has a large warehouse workforce, among other hourly and contract workers, that have had to work through the pandemic. The company revised its unpaid leave policy in April so that all fulfillment center employees needed to resume working on May 1st unless they receive approval for an extended unpaid leave, which was to be granted only if someone had an existing health condition or lived with someone who does.
Prior to that, most employees continued to work in Amazon warehouses, but those who wished to remain home out of fear for their health were allowed to do so. Workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19, or who worked in close contact with someone who was, are still eligible for two-week paid leave.
Despite those benefits and the $4 billion the company has said it will spend combating COVID-19, Amazon has come under fire over the past few months for its handling of public health and safety conditions in its warehouses. A number of warehouse workers have died from COVID-19, and the company has faced a number of employee protests and a lawsuit in New York City over what some workers and activist organizations have characterized as critical failures to keep workers safe.
Those failures include allegedly not informing some workers when a colleague has been diagnosed with COVID-19, not adequately closing down and cleaning facilities when an outbreak among workers has been detected, and not giving workers enough time to wash hands and sanitize work stations during shifts. Amazon has responded to these criticisms by improving its public health and worker safety protections and extending hourly employee pay increases, among other measures.