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UBS Group AG staff who don’t wish to receive a vaccine against the coronavirus can apply to work from home, Chief Executive Officer Ralph Hamers said, signaling a flexible approach on a topic that’s disrupting banks’ effort to get workers back to their desks.

“We have 25,000 employees alone in the U.S. and thousands more in Singapore and Hong Kong, and every country has a different legal framework around what you can and can’t make mandatory" with respect to vaccines, Hamers said at the Swiss Economic Forum in Interlaken on Thursday. “The pandemic has delivered solutions to manage the risk of carrying the virus and passing it to your colleagues, and that is to work from home."

As the delta variant upends Wall Street’s efforts to return to office life, some lenders including Deutsche Bank AG are making vaccination status a condition for entering their buildings and encouraging them to get the jab. Hamers is rolling out a permanent hybrid working model for the firm globally, allowing at least two thirds of its employees to mix work from home and the office. 

As Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS has around 70,000 staff worldwide. While UBS has taken a gentler tone regarding the post-pandemic work arrangements than some of its rivals, the need for traders to be on-site means those workers are practically obliged to get jabbed to retain their roles. 

Hamers said in July that traders are part of the “25% to one third" of the bank’s staff for whom it is “really difficult" to work from home. As governments struggle to encourage vaccine skeptics to take the shot, companies are increasingly using access to company premises as a clear incentive. 

Staff, vendors and clients seeking access to the Deutsche Bank Center at 1 Columbus Circle in New York will need to show proof of vaccination, according to a person familiar with the matter. That represents an expansion from guidance provided earlier in August, when the lender said it would allow only fully vaccinated employees to access U.S. trading floors. 

Vaccine Skepticism

Switzerland lags behind European peers in terms of the percentage of the population that are fully vaccinated. 

With the infection rate stabilizing at a high level, the government has postponed a decision to require a proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid or a negative test to enter restaurants and fitness centers. Hospital intensive-care units have come under pressure in recent days, and just 52% of the Swiss are fully vaccinated.

Hamers underlined that most staff who choose non-vaccination do have the option of working remotely, most of the time.

“We have already identified two thirds of our jobs can continue to work from home and therefore we are developing a model of hybrid working," he said. “There will be days where we want to come in and work in your teams physically."

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