At least three of the Big Four accounting firms in Canada are requiring employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to the office as they prepare to reintroduce in-person meetings with clients.
Ernst & Young LLP, KPMG LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP told The Globe and Mail that they will implement vaccine mandates in their Canadian offices. Deloitte LLP did not respond to The Globe’s questions.
The trio joins Canada’s five largest banks, several law firms and many other private companies that have recently enacted vaccination policies. All three accounting firms said they will allow exemptions for employees who cannot be vaccinated, for religious, medical or other reasons.
The three firms are global entities with a significant presence in Canada. They engage with a wide variety of Canadian companies that seek their consulting and auditing services. Much of that work can be done remotely, but as the percentage of vaccinated Canadians rises, firms are hoping to strengthen existing relationships and win new business by meeting with clients face to face.
“When we think about the health and well-being and safety of our people, our clients, all of our communities, health and safety is number one, and vaccines have proven to reduce the risk of COVID-19,” said Alaina Tennison, chief financial officer of PwC Canada. “We just thought this was really an essential time to safely serve our clients, take care of our people and lead by example, as we return to the office.”
PwC’s policy comes into effect on Oct. 1 and will apply to its 7,200 Canadian workers. The mandate extends to those who visit its offices as well. Ms. Tennison said that 90 per cent of the firm’s staff are fully vaccinated or intend to be by the end of the summer.
While the vaccine mandates are meant to make a return to the office feasible, none of the three firms set hard lines on how often employees will need to be in the office. This contrasts with the strategies of several law firms that told The Globe last week that they have implemented deliberate, step-by-step plans to bring employees back to their desks.
“From our perspective what’s important is work done well, not where the work is done,” Ms. Tennison said. “We won’t be mandating a fixed number of days that our people need to be in the office.”
She said the company is more focused on a return to in-person interaction, rather than to a particular office. PwC’s offices will be reconfigured to encourage more collaboration, since a lot of desk work can be completed remotely.
“We’re a client service business; a lot of our people spent most of their time at clients, and so they weren’t even in the office. ... We recognize that it’s those personal face-to-face connections that we have with our clients that have the greatest impact.”
KPMG spokesperson Kevin Dove told The Globe that “only a small number” of its 8,300 employees in Canada have worked in-office since the pandemic began. Its vaccine policy comes into effect on Oct. 1.
“When health authorities tell us that time is right, we will offer flexibility for our people to work where they are most effective in order to meet client, business and team needs,” he said.
“This will look different for everyone and will factor in roles and responsibilities, client and team needs, as well as personal preferences.”
EY spokeswoman Victoria McQueen said employees can return to the office this fall, but did not outline any specific rules about in-office attendance or frequency.
Separately, Telus Corp. said Tuesday that as of Oct. 1, all employees and guests will need to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 to enter the company’s administrative buildings.
Starting Oct. 15, all employees working in customer-facing roles, including technicians and retail employees, must either be fully vaccinated or submit to rapid antigen testing at least twice a week.
The announcement by the telecom follows similar moves by its rivals Rogers Communications Inc. and BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada.
With a file from Alexandra Posadzki
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