JPMorgan Chase loosens mask and Covid vaccine rules for US workers

JPMorgan Chase’s US operation is discontinuing a policy of hiring only vaccinated people and has ended mandatory mask wearing and testing for employees as cases fall and pandemic concerns ease.

The move by the largest US bank underscores the desire by corporate America to return to some sort of normality following two years of masking, testing and remote work.

In a memo to staff on Monday, JPMorgan’s Return to the Office Task Force said that the rollbacks were coming as “we are learning to live with Covid as part of our new normal”. 

Effective immediately, JPMorgan staff in the bank’s US offices will no longer be required to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status. Starting on April 4, unvaccinated staff who are coming into the office will no longer need to be tested for Covid-19. The bank next month is also ending a policy of hiring only applicants who are vaccinated against the disease.

JPMorgan’s rival Citigroup this year said it would fire US employees if they had not been vaccinated or received an exemption.

In New York City, where JPMorgan has its headquarters, employees will still need to comply with a local mandate requiring all private sector workers to be vaccinated against coronavirus.

The bank’s decision comes two years after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus pandemic on March 11 2020. The US has averaged about 34,800 new Covid-19 cases a day over the past week, well below a peak in January of more than 809,300 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

JPMorgan has about 271,000 employees worldwide, ranging from retail branch staff to Wall Street dealmakers and traders. It has been eager to bring a portion of its workforce back to the office and Jamie Dimon, chief executive, has highlighted the drawbacks to remote work.

“There are huge weaknesses to the Zoom world,” Dimon said in an interview with Bloomberg TV last year. “Most of us learn by an apprenticeship system . . . So it’s hard to inculcate culture and character and all those things when you have the Zoom world.”

JPMorgan is the latest US company to loosen curbs. United Airlines announced on Thursday that 2,200 unvaccinated workers with a “reasonable accommodation” would be able to return to their jobs at the end of March, citing indications that “the pandemic is beginning to meaningfully recede”.

Kirk Limacher, United’s vice-president of human resources, said in a memo to staff that Covid-19 cases among United employees were down more than 90 per cent, and hospitalisation down more than two-thirds, from their January peak. At the time, 3,000 employees tested positive for the virus, forcing the airline to cut flights.

The Chicago-based carrier was the first US airline to require Covid-19 jabs for its active workers, a mandate that applied to 67,000 employees. United confirmed that it would continue to require vaccination for new hires.

Additional reporting by Peter Wells in New York

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