The badge of a Ford Motor Co. E-Transit electric vehicle during a presentation in Washington, DC, the United States, on Wednesday, July 28, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DETROIT – Ford Motor is delaying its hybrid return program for employees who have not returned to the offices from October to January at the earliest due to the rapidly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.

The automaker informed employees of its plans on Wednesday morning, about five months after first announcing the flexible work program for its roughly 86,000 employees worldwide who had not yet returned to work.

“The state of the COVID-19 virus remains very fluid and therefore we are not adjusting the start of our hybrid working arrangement until January 2022 at the earliest,” said Ford in a statement.

Around 120,000 to 130,000 of Ford’s 182,000 employees, mainly in manufacturing, have already returned to their jobs. The schedules, if any, of workers who must be in a particular facility to perform their duties are not expected to change much.

Ford’s 56,000 U.S. employees began returning to work in May 2020 after Detroit automakers were forced to close factories for several weeks at the start of the pandemic.

Ford also announced that it is introducing a new “short-term remote” work arrangement that will allow employees who are not required to work in one location to work from another location within the country of employment for up to 30 days a year.

“The flexible hybrid model will be the primary work regime for employees whose work is not location-dependent,” the company said.