Tens of thousands of Amazon corporate employees may work from home until Jan. 8, the company said Wednesday, again extending the timeline to return to offices that were emptied in early March in the face of a worsening coronavirus pandemic.
“We continue to prioritize the health of our employees and follow local government guidance,” an Amazon spokesperson said via email. “Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until January 8.”
The company’s safeguards for employees who do come in to the office include performing deep cleaning, offering hand sanitizer and face coverings, and requiring temperature checks and physical distancing.
Amazon, Microsoft and several other Seattle-area employers first sent employees home on or before March 4 as the region emerged as one of the first coronavirus hot spots in the country. Amazon and Microsoft later extended those policies until October. That remains the timeline for most Microsoft employees, a spokesperson said.
Seattle tech news site GeekWire first reported the latest Amazon extension, citing an internal policy page that also cautioned employees to consider various questions of taxation for themselves and the company in deciding where to work.
“There are several risks for the employee to consider such as personal income tax, visa requirements, and for the company, such as payroll and corporate tax associated with working from a location that is not an employee’s regular, contracted county, state, or province,” the policy page said, according to GeekWire.
That is not a reference to the JumpStart Seattle payroll tax, passed by the City Council last week, the Amazon spokesperson said, but rather a warning about the varying taxation and withholding requirements of various states and countries where employees may work, should they move.
The loss of a regular influx of thousands of well-paid corporate and tech employees, on top of coronavirus restrictions, has hurt businesses in the South Lake Union and Denny Regrade neighborhoods where Amazon’s headquarters campus has expanded during the last decade.
Tom Douglas said last week he would permanently close two restaurants that were popular with Amazon employees, citing uncertainty about their return to the neighborhood.
An email to the South Lake Union Chamber seeking comment was met with an automated reply noting that its staff is on furlough, a “temporary action” meant to help ensure the business group’s financial stability.
Early in the pandemic, Amazon provided grants and rent relief to support businesses near its offices. The Amazon spokesperson said the rent relief, offered to tenants of buildings the company owns, remains in effect.