UPS to require vaccines for returning office workers

Package delivery company’s front-line workers exempted
UPS logo. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

UPS logo. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

UPS will require employees returning to work at its headquarters and other office buildings to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

But the package delivery giant isn’t requiring the same of its front-line workers, who represent the bulk of its workforce.

Those who return to work at UPS headquarters in Sandy Springs and support locations in Alpharetta will have to be vaccinated by Oct. 1 — either fully vaccinated or with at least the first of two doses and a scheduled date for a second shot, according to the company.

The mandate could mean fewer office workers return immediately after Labor Day than UPS had planned, as a surge in COVID-19 cases scrambles employer plans.

While some UPS headquarters employees have been working in the office throughout much of the pandemic, the company has been planning for a broader return to the office starting Sept. 7.

UPS said that it is sticking to that date, but only for vaccinated employees. Other office employees have until the end of September to get vaccinated and can continue working remotely until then.

The company said employees who aren’t vaccinated and whose jobs require returning to the office can request an accommodation for religious beliefs or a qualifying disability or medical condition, or they can apply for a job that doesn’t require in-person interaction. Otherwise, unvaccinated employees whose positions require going into the office stand to lose their jobs.

UPS has more than 540,000 employees around the world, mostly front-line workers, including unionized drivers and package handlers, who have not had the option to work from home during the pandemic. Those front-line employees don’t need to be vaccinated because those operating facilities “have been safely staffed in person since the beginning and throughout the pandemic,” according to UPS, although it is encouraging all workers to get shots.

Different companies are taking different approaches to vaccine mandates. Emory Healthcare, the Atlanta Falcons and Invesco are among local employers with vaccine requirements for employees. Cox Enterprises, which owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is also requiring employees who enter its headquarters and some other offices to be fully vaccinated.

Nationally, Disney, Walmart, Google, Tyson Foods and Microsoft have told at least some of their employees that vaccination is required. Other companies are focusing more on encouraging vaccinations.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines is requiring new hires to be vaccinated, but has not put in such a requirement for existing employees. The airline’s headquarters employees returned to the office in June.

“I think all employers have to understand their culture, their people” and their field, said Delta CEO Ed Bastian last week on Fox 5 Good Day New York. “You have probably some portion, maybe call it 5-10% of our employee base, that’s going to have some medical or religious reason why they’re not getting vaccinated. You’re really down to a relatively modest number, maybe 10-20% of the unvaccinated, that you could drive with a mandate.”

Nearly 75% of Delta’s U.S. employees and 87% of Delta headquarters staff are vaccinated. The company had a mass vaccination site on its headquarters campus earlier this year and has offered employees incentives to get vaccinated.