Ford delays return to office, weighs vaccine warrant

By Joseph Blanc

DETROIT, Aug. 25 (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co will delay the return of most workers to its offices until January and is still considering whether to force employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, told Reuters the director of human resources of the company.

Ford joins a growing number of large employers delaying plans to reopen their offices as the Delta variant of the coronavirus crosses many countries where the automaker operates. Ford said most office workers from groups in North America, Latin America and international markets will not return to their offices until January. The company reassesses return-to-work plans every three to four months.

Ford’s head of personnel and employee experience, Kiersten Robinson, said the company has yet to decide to join employers and government agencies demanding workers get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Ford has required vaccinations for employees traveling overseas for work. Robinson said the company is still evaluating whether a broader mandate is appropriate, how employees would respond and how a vaccine requirement would be tailored to different countries.

“We want to understand the feeling of employees. What is stopping them from getting vaccinated voluntarily,” Robinson said. Employee views – and Ford workers’ access to vaccines – vary around the world, she said. “It’s simplistic to have a single mandate for all.”

Ford instituted mask requirements and other policies to limit the spread of coronavirus infections in factories and workplaces where employees cannot work remotely. So far, Robinson said, there has been no major outbreak at Ford’s facilities.

Once Ford employees who can work remotely return to their offices, many will only do so part-time, and Ford said it plans to reconfigure many offices for hybrid working arrangements.

Workers who can do their jobs through video conferencing and internet connections could gain a new advantage once offices reopen. The automaker said it would allow employees to work remotely for up to 30 days a year from their home country, without having to show up at a Ford site.

Under the guidelines, a Ford office worker in Michigan could choose to work for a month at a resort or with a relative in Florida, Los Angeles, or any other location in the United States. (Reporting by Joe White; Editing by David Gregorio)

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