Delta Air Lines plans to impose a $200 monthly surcharge on employees who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19, becoming the first major U.S. company to levy a penalty to encourage workers to get protected.
The new policy was outlined in a company memo Wednesday from CEO Ed Bastian, who said 75% of the carrier’s workers already are vaccinated. Increasing cases of coronavirus linked to a “very aggressive” variant are driving the push for all employees to get the shots, he said.
The fee applies to employees in the airline’s health-care plan who haven’t received shots by Nov. 1. The company also will require weekly testing for employees who aren’t vaccinated by mid-September.
Delta stopped short of a mandatory vaccine requirement like the one imposed earlier this month by United Airlines and a growing number of other companies. Goldman Sachs, Google and Facebook also have announced vaccine requirements.
While mandates have increased since Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine received full Food and Drug Administration approval on Monday, some employers are treading carefully for fear they’ll hurt morale and spur defections in a tight labor market. Some health-care consultants doubt that surcharges will be as persuasive as mandates.
The fee for unvaccinated employees is “to address the financial risk” from their decision, Bastian said. The average hospital stay for COVID-19 patients has cost Delta $40,000 each, he said.
“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.
Under the new policy, any worker not fully vaccinated by Sept. 12 will be required to take a weekly coronavirus test “while community case rates are high,” the note said.
Employees who aren’t vaccinated must wear masks in all indoor settings, effective immediately. Delta also said that starting Sept. 30, COVID pay protection will be provided only to workers who have received both shots but who still get sick.