Ford delays a return to offices, weighs vaccine mandate

DETROIT, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Ford Motor Co (F.N) will delay bringing most workers back to offices until January, and is still considering whether to require employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the company’s chief people officer told Reuters.

Ford is joining a growing number of large employers that are delaying plans to reopen offices as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps through many countries where the automaker does business. Ford said most office workers in North America, Latin America and International Markets groups will not come back to offices before January. The company is reassessing return to work plans every three to four months.

Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief people and employee experience officer, said the company has not yet decided whether to join employers and government agencies requiring workers to get coronavirus vaccinations.

Ford has required vaccinations for employees who travel internationally for work. Robinson said the company is still assessing whether a broader mandate is appropriate, how employees would respond and how a vaccine requirement would be adapted to different countries.

“We want to understand the sentiment of employees. What’s standing the way of them getting vaccinated voluntarily,” Robinson said. Employee views – and the access Ford workers have to vaccines – vary around the world, she said. “It’s simplistic to have a one-sized fits all mandate.”

Ford has instituted mask requirements and other policies to limit the spread of coronavirus infections in factories and workplaces where employees cannot do jobs remotely. So far, Robinson said, there have not been major outbreaks at any Ford facilities.

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

Workers who can do their jobs via videoconference and internet connections could get a new perk once offices reopen. The automaker said it will allow employees to work remotely for up to 30 days a year from within their home country, without being required to report to a Ford site.

Under the guidelines, a Ford office worker in Michigan could choose to work for a month from a resort or a relative’s home in Florida, Los Angeles or any other U.S. location.

Reporting By Joe White; Editing by David Gregorio