CNN Business  — 

Ford will mandate vaccines for most of its 32,000 US salaried employees, a spokesperson for the company said Wednesday.

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 could be put on unpaid leave for a maximum of 30 days. After that time their job protection expires, according to the spokesperson.

“The goal is to achieve highest possible vaccination rate without severe consequences to any employee,” said the spokesperson.

The company, however, said it is working with some employees who may not be able to meet the company’s deadline for a variety of reasons.

“We take employees jobs as well as health and safety seriously. We understand there are many individual circumstances and want to help employees work through it,” a spokesperson said. “If employees are making a good faith effort to comply but they have extenuating circumstances that may prevent them from being fully vaccinated by the deadline, we will work them.”

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 (F), General Motors (GM), 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 vaccinate by November 22, and all federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by December 8.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the leave status of Ford employees who are not fully vaccinated. They will be placed on unpaid leave. Separately, this story was updated after Ford clarified its statement on the scope of the mandate.