A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 27, 2021

Why General Motors Is Pressing Staff On Reporting Covid Vaccine Status

The company is trying to manage salaried employees' workplace safety without requiring vaccines in hopes that knowledge of who is vaccinated or not will make the spread of infection less likely. Factory workers' health issues are not covered as they are represented by a union contract. 

GM is hoping to avoid contentious battles over vaccination but having the information about vaccine status will permit it to act more decisively if need be. JL 

Mike Colias and Chip Cutter report in the Wall Street Journal:

General Motorsis cracking down on white-collar employees who haven’t complied with a corporate mandate to report vaccination status. A continued failure to report would result in a second letter to the employee and a partial loss of performance bonus. The enforcement measures taken by GM come from consideration of workplace safety.  GM implemented  the reporting requirement for its 48,000 U.S. salaried workers as the spread of the Delta variant led to a surge in Covid-19 infections. The mandate doesn’t apply to GM’s 46,000 factory workers

General Motors Co. GM 0.60% is cracking down on white-collar employees who haven’t complied with a corporate mandate to report their vaccination status, illustrating the hurdles companies face in trying to navigate the sensitive topic of workforce immunity.

GM’s human-resources chief on Wednesday sent a memo to managers inside the auto maker’s engineering division, flagging that some direct reports had not confidentially reported their vaccination status, according to a copy of the document reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The memo, sent from Kim Brycz, senior vice president of global HR, instructed managers by Friday to inform noncompliant employees that they would receive a safety violation letter in their personnel file if they don’t report their status. A continued failure to report would result in a second letter to the employee and a partial loss of a company performance bonus, the memo says.

A company spokeswoman confirmed the memo was sent to managers across GM’s U.S. salaried work force and said most of the noncompliant employees have reported their status since the directive was sent.

“We are pleased that virtually every GM salaried employee has reported their vaccine status via our confidential reporting tool,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to work with a very small number of employees to reach 100 percent completion.”

The enforcement measures taken by GM come as companies try to balance several different forces, from consideration of workplace safety and employee privacy to calls from the Biden administration to have large companies mandate vaccines.

GM’s actions are significant in part because they show a willingness to exact penalties, such as withholding a part of a yearly performance bonus, in order to enhance access to data that can help ensure a better response to the virus.

GM implemented the reporting requirement last month for its roughly 48,000 U.S. salaried workers as the spread of the Delta variant led to a surge in Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations nationwide. The mandate doesn’t apply to GM’s 46,000 factory workers, who are represented by the United Auto Workers, and work under labor contracts that govern workplace health and safety requirements.

The Detroit auto maker is not requiring any workers—hourly or salaried—to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Companies have been grappling with how to handle the vaccination issue, which has taken on greater urgency in recent months amid the increase in Covid-19 cases.

Some companies have required that their workers get the shot. Others have offered incentives for getting vaccinated or penalties for those who don’t. GM and others have required employees to report so that they can assess workforce immunity rates and plan accordingly.

GM has said it wants to use the data it collects to quantify vaccination levels across various parts of the company and help inform its safety protocols, including determining the appropriate staffing levels at certain locations and masking requirements.

The spokeswoman said the vaccination status reported by employees is kept confidential and used only in aggregate to get a snapshot of immunization levels broadly. Managers aren’t privy to vaccination levels of employees, only whether they have reported their status, she said.

Ms. Brycz’s memo said the overall compliance rate among white-collar GM employees for reporting vaccination status was high.

“However, we are aiming for 100 percent compliance to help assess the Covid-19 immunization status of our employee population for future workplace health and safety planning,” she said.

GM employees whose vaccination status remains outstanding will have their short-term incentive bonus capped at 50%, the internal memo says. Also, “their behavior ratings for 2021 end of year reviews will be ‘Partially Meets Expectations,’” it says.

Corporate policies vary widely on how to approach vaccine reporting. Wells Fargo & Co. earlier this year mandated that its U.S. employees disclose their vaccination status, while others, including Boeing Co. , have set up systems where employees can volunteer to share whether they’ve received the shot.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in June ordered U.S. employees to disclose whether they had been vaccinated through an internal portal to help plan for a return to the office. Later, in August, Goldman said it would require employees and visitors entering its offices to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

For many companies, navigating vaccine requirements can be complicated. Some employers ask workers to upload images of vaccination cards through third-party platforms, but the ways in which employers process the cards can vary.

A number of organizations spot-check the images, analyzing only some entries, while others insist on an administrator signing off on each employee’s submission or verifying the information within vaccine databases, said Ashley John Heather, a co-founder and president of Cleared4, a tool used by law firms, entertainment companies and others to verify vaccinations.

“All these different entities and corporations and businesses are picking different roads through the mud to figure out how to get to the holy grail, which is: How do I get safe people into my space?” Mr. Heather said.


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