Ford to Impose Covid Vaccine Mandate on Most of Its 32,000 Salaried Workers

Adam Jeffery | CNBC
  • Ford will require U.S. salaried employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or possibly face unpaid leave.
  • The automaker on Tuesday sent out a message to Ford's roughly 32,000 salaried employees about the mandate.

DETROIT – Ford Motor will require U.S. salaried employees to be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or possibly 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 may 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. Such contractors will have broad leeway to enforce President Joe Biden's Covid vaccine mandate, according to new guidance the White House released Monday.

UAW not included

Ford's mandate, at this time, does not include factory workers, parts depots and its Ford Credit financial arm. The company is analyzing federal and collective bargaining requirements for those workers, according to Brentley.

The largest of those groups not impacted by the mandate are Ford's roughly 57,000 workers represented by the United Auto Workers union.

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. 

The union participated in a call with White House officials and other major unions, such as the AFL-CIO, on Oct. 18 to discuss the Biden administration's vaccine mandate. The AFL-CIO is advocating for the administration to expand the mandate to include additional worker protections.

The UAW told CNBC it will review the impact of the vaccine mandate on its more than 700 contracts after it is published.

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.

Ford first

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

Ford is the first major U.S. automaker to impose a vaccine mandate. General Motors and Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) also previously required salaried employees to submit their vaccination status but they have not implemented a mandate.

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

Stellantis has not implemented a Covid vaccine mandate, according to a U.S.-based company spokeswoman.

"Since vaccines have become available, Stellantis has continued to strongly advocate for our employees to get vaccinated," she said in an emailed statement. "We are continuing to monitor the situation and, in partnership with the UAW, evaluating additional actions to take in the best interest of employee health and safety."

Correction: This story was updated after Ford on Thursday corrected its previous statement that employees would be placed on unpaid leave if they aren't vaccinated. The company now says its employees could be placed on unpaid leave.

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