(CNN) - Ford will mandate vaccines for its 32,000 US salaried employees, a spokesperson for the company said on Nov. 3.
Those workers have until December 8 to be fully vaccinated. Employees who refuse to do so and do not have an approved religious or medical exemption will be put on paid leave for a maximum of 30 days. After that time their job protection expires, according to the spokesperson.
"The goal is to achieve the highest possible vaccination rate without severe consequences to any employee," said the spokesperson.
Ford is the first of the big three US automakers to mandate vaccines for its US employees. The company's previous policy was to encourage vaccines among its US workforce of 88,000 — but the company did not make them mandatory.
Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis already require their employees in Canada to be fully vaccinated.
"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% of US salaried employees who are already vaccinated," the spokesperson said. "As we continue to put measures in place to protect our team, Ford will now require most US salaried employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8, which also aligns to federal contractor guidelines."
But the rest of Ford's employees, represented by unions, will not fall under this mandate right away due to federal and collective bargaining requirements, said the company's spokesperson.
"OSHA-ETS guidelines have yet to be released and is subject to bargaining with the UAW," the spokesperson said. "How the OSHA requirements will apply is currently being reviewed and discussed with union leadership."
Some 56,000 United Auto Workers union members who work for Ford will not be subject to this new company mandate, said Brian Rothenberg, spokesperson for the UAW.
"Our position continues to be that we encourage all members to get vaccinated but understand there are reasons such as health and religion that some members cannot," he said.
But an Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency rule expected to be announced by the Labor Department in the coming days could change that. It would require private businesses with 100 or more employees to vaccinate or test them weekly.
US President Joe Biden is also mandating that all federal workers be vaccinated by November 22, and all federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by December 8.
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