Northern Trust says workers must get COVID vaccine, plans return to office – Crain’s Chicago Business

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It’s back to the future beginning next year for Northern Trust’s U.S. workforce.

Chicago’s largest locally headquartered bank is requiring employees in the U.S. to return to the office starting Jan. 3. In addition, workers must be vaccinated against COVID or risk losing their jobs.

The mandates are among the most stringent in the banking industry, which generally has been more eager to get people back into the office than many other white-collar fields.

Northern laid out its plans for workers on Nov. 3, spokesman Doug Holt said in an email. The decision, he said, reflects “improved virus trends, growing vaccination rates, easing local government restrictions, and more companies and venues reopening across the U.S. The exact timing of different teams will vary.”

There will be exceptions to the vaccine mandate for employees who get approval from the company for religious or medical reasons. Most workers will be on a hybrid schedule, spending some days in the office and working from home others, Holt said.

Among the banks that employ the largest number in the Chicago market, Northern is the only one to require that workers get jabbed. JPMorgan Chase, BMO Harris Bank and Bank of America all are encouraging vaccinations but aren’t requiring them.

In addition to calling workers back into the office, Northern—which employs about 6,000 in the Chicago area—is resuming business travel at levels close to where they were before the pandemic.

“We’re going to be on the road more often,” Chief Financial Officer Jason Tyler told analysts Oct. 20 in a conference call. “We’re not going to likely get to pre-COVID levels, but by the end of next year, that will be significantly higher (than 2021).”

New York-based Chase—the largest retail and commercial bank in Chicago, employing nearly 14,000 locally—has had workers back in the office at least some of the time for several months. But it doesn’t mandate vaccinations.

Unvaccinated workers are subject to extra masking requirements and must test for the virus at least twice a week, according to an August internal communication.

“Some employees are in five days a week, while others are in 50%, due to occupancy limits,” Chase spokesman Brian Hanover said in an email. “Some teams are piloting hybrid schedules, and we are testing the effectiveness of these models.”

BMO Harris, the second-largest retail and commercial bank in the area, brought most employees back to the office this fall following a June mandate for commercial bankers. Like Chase, those who are unvaccinated or opt not to disclose their vaccination status must be tested twice a week, spokesman Patrick O’Herlihy says. Workers were asked in August to say whether they were vaccinated.

BMO employs about 6,700 locally.

Finally, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, which has about 6,000 workers in the area, is in the process of bringing its people back together in person.

“We have said publicly we expect the majority of our employees to begin to return to the office after Labor Day, as we are a work-from-office culture that thrives on partnership and collaboration,” spokeswoman Diane Wagner said in an email. “We continue to slowly return employees to the office, prioritizing the vaccinated.”

There is no vaccination mandate; B of A is “strongly encouraging” workers to get the shots and to inform the company of their status, she said.