In another example of how businesses are dealing with the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the kinds of human resources policies that may become standard practice as a result of the global pandemic, Delta Air Lines has announced that it will soon begin levying a new charge against people on its payroll who refuse to get vaccinated against the illness.
David Koenig of the Associated Press has reported that as part of the newly enacted policy, “Delta Air Lines will charge employees on the company health plan $200 a month if they fail to get vaccinated against COVID-19, a policy the airline’s top executive says is necessary because the average hospital stay for the virus costs the airline $50,000.”
In a statement, the company’s CEO Ed Bastian told reporters that all Delta employees that have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in recent weeks were not fully vaccinated.
According to Koenig, the airline said, “it also will stop extending pay protection to unvaccinated workers who contract COVID-19 on Sept. 30.” Beginning on Sept. 12, all unvaccinated workers will be required to get weekly PCR tests and wear a mask in all indoor company settings.
Other airlines have announced similar company-wide changes in policy in recent weeks: United Airlines will require all its employees to be vaccinated starting Sept. 27 or face termination. United and Delta have also required new hires to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Other companies in the travel industry, including American and Southwest airlines, are currently “encouraging” employees to get vaccinated but have not yet made the policy mandatory.
In a message to company employees, Bastian said, “this surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk [that] the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
Delta spokespeople added that the “surcharge,” which will begin in November 2021, only applies to employees themselves and not spouses or dependents under their insurance plan.
“Delta is self-insured and sets premiums for its plans, which are administered by UnitedHealthcare,” Koenig said.
Based on current company estimates, more than 75% of Delta employees are vaccinated, but Bastian said his goal is to get “as close to 100% as possible.”
“I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full [Food and Drug Administration] approval, [but] with this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now,” Bastian said in the company memo.
In an unusual twist for the company to also deal with, Koenig pointed out that Bastian referred to the fast-spreading strain of COVID-19 currently dominating the United States as “B.1.617.2,” which scientists use to identify the virus’ lineage.
“The Delta CEO’s effort to avoid using the more commonly known ‘delta variant’ did not go unnoticed, and B.1.617.2 began trending on Twitter on Wednesday,” Koenig reported.