• Delta Air Lines is charging employees using the company’s health insurance $200 a month if they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
• The average Delta employee hospitalized for COVID-19 has cost the company $50,000, according to the CEO.
• Several industries — like manufacturing and distribution – are weighing similar moves, according to experts.
Unvaccinated employees at 40 or more companies could soon see a change in their paycheck for the worse — a fate already announced at Delta Air Lines.
Just as companies have mandated vaccines for all workers amid the troubling spread of the Delta variant, Delta Air Lines announced it will charge employees who use the company’s health insurance $200 a month if they fail to get the COVID-19 jab.
Beginning on Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees using Delta’s account-based healthcare plan will be hit with the surcharge, the company announced Wednesday.
Why Delta is pressuring employees to get vaccinated
In a memo to employees, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said the monthly surcharge addresses the financial risk that comes with not getting vaccinated; he noted that the average hospital stay for COVID-19 has cost the airline $50,000 per person.
The move comes after the FDA granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccines earlier this week; Moderna just completed its submission seeking approval on Wednesday.
Bastian said that 75% of Delta Air Lines’ workforce has been vaccinated, but all Delta employees who have been recently hospitalized with COVID were not fully vaccinated, a trend that has been seen across the country as hospitalizations climb.
“We’ve always known that vaccinations are the most effective tool to keep our people safe and healthy in the face of this global health crisis. That’s why we’re taking additional, robust actions to increase our vaccination rate,” Bastian said in the letter.
Although Delta won’t force employees to get vaccinated, the Air Line Pilots Association, the airline’s labor union, voiced displeasure about the announcement.
The union “has consistently advocated to maintain the right of each individual pilot to consult with his or her medical provider regarding COVID-19 vaccinations or booster doses,” it said in a statement. “While the Delta [master executive council] respects Delta Air Line’s efforts to mitigate the impact of breakthrough COVID-19 variant infections, it needs to bargain with the Delta MEC over any employer-mandated vaccination for pilots.”
Surcharges are picking up steam
While vaccine mandates have started to become more mainstream, this is the first time that a company has come out and said it would penalize workers that are not vaccinated against the virus. It’s a complete 180-turn from earlier this year when companies weighed incentivizing employees to get the jab — and it’s one that could soon become more mainstream.
“It’s really caught fire within the last couple weeks,” Wade Symons, a resources group leader at Mercer, told Fox-17 West Michigan. “We’re talking about $20 to $25 per paycheck, is sort of the numbers I’ve heard.”
Symons said that companies have even considered $50 surcharges per pay period. As many as 40 establishments are seeking guidance on how to proceed. Symons didn’t name specific businesses, but said that industries that require in-person workers right now are considering all the options, including manufacturing, distribution, retail, hospitality and restaurants.
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden called on private companies to require their workers to get the COVID-19 vaccination after the FDA green-lighted full use for the Pfizer two-dose vaccine.