(Reuters) – Jefferies (NYSE:JEF) Financial Group on Wednesday cancelled all client parties and most travel plans globally, asking employees to work from home where possible due to a spate of COVID-19 cases.
The company has seen more than 40 cases since the start of December, Chief Executive Richard Handler said in a memo seen by Reuters, adding that the firm was re-imposing a mask mandate in all its offices, regardless of vaccination status.
The memo requested employees to work from home where possible and announced the cancellation of all travel except the most essential, unless pre-approved.
Jefferies is headquartered in New York and also has offices in Asia and Europe. The bank has felt the impact of COVID-19 particularly severely. Its Chief Financial Officer Peg Broadbent died due to coronavirus complications in March, 2020.
Jefferies’ move raised questions about whether other banks will also review return to office plans, mask mandates and travel and entertainment policies.
Most major U.S. banks have been bringing staff back into the office since the summer. But those plans have come under renewed scrutiny due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
As more countries report cases, the new COVID-19 variant dubbed Omicron carries a “very high” global risk of surges, the World Health Organization said.
So far, major U.S. banks have been sticking to their existing COVID-19 policies although sources at the ‘big 6’ firms say they are keeping a close watch on developments.
Wells Fargo pushed its return-to-office plans back to January 2022, while Citigroup employees in New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. have been working from the office at least two days a week since Sept. 13.
Major U.S. banks have also been continuing with holiday parties and client meetings since the Omicron variant was discovered, sources say, although they require proof of vaccination to attend.
Jefferies, which the memo said had seen attendance average as high as 60% many days globally in recent weeks, said everyone who wants to enter any Jefferies offices or attend an event will have to have a booster vaccination administered by Jan. 31, unless they are not yet eligible to do so.