Ford to impose Covid vaccine mandate on its 32,000 salaried workers

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

DETROIT – Ford Motor will require U.S. salaried employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or face unpaid leave, CNBC has learned.

The automaker on Tuesday sent out a message to Ford’s roughly 32,000 salaried employees about the mandate. Ford will consider religious and medical exemptions for employees who can’t get the vaccines, according to company spokeswoman Monique Brentley.

At this time, employees who refuse to get vaccinated and do not have an approved medical or religious accommodation will be put on unpaid leave with job protection for up to 30 days, the company said in an emailed statement. It was immediately unclear what happens after those 30 days.

“The health and safety of our workforce remains our top priority and we have been very encouraged by the support of our employees to comply with our protocols, including the more than 84-percent of U.S. salaried employees who are already vaccinated,” Brentley said in a separate emailed statement. “As we continue to put measures in place to protect our team, Ford will now require most U.S. salaried employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8, which also aligns to federal contractor guidelines.”

Parts of Ford’s business are categorized as being a federal contractor, according to Brentley.

Federal contractors will have broad leeway to enforce President Joe Biden‘s Covid vaccine mandate, according to new guidance the White House released Monday

The vaccine requirement comes as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration also puts the finishing touches on a separate rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees – estimated to cover about two-thirds of the private sector workforce – to enforce a mandatory Covid vaccination policy unless they create a plan that gives workers the option to get tested regularly.

Automakers have been reluctant to mandate Covid vaccinations ahead of the new rule, which will cover their large, unionized workforces as well.

Both Ford and General Motors previously required salaried employees to submit their vaccination status. Ford also voluntarily opened the submission process to its hourly workers, which are represented by the United Auto Workers union.

GM did not immediately respond for comment regarding any changes in its vaccination policies for salaried workers.

The UAW has encouraged members to get vaccinated, but it has not been supportive of making vaccines mandatory for workers. Instead, relying on its more than 400,000 members to personally choose to get vaccinated.