Two major airlines -- Canada’s WestJet and United Airlines in the US -- have said their employees would be laid off or sent on unpaid leave if they fail to get their COVID-19 shots.
Last month, United Airlines had asked all its 67,000 employees to get vaccinated by September 27. Those who refuse to get vaccinated will not be permitted within the workplace from October 2, the airline said.
However, the airline would consider exemptions on religious and medical grounds. On September 8, the airline informed its staff that employees who have been exempted from the vaccine mandate would be sent on unpaid leave from October 2.
United Airlines may consider exemptions on religious or medical grounds, but those exempted will be sent on unpaid leave till the pandemic ‘meaningfully recedes.’ Canadian airline WestJet’s mandate is stricter: Get vaccinated by December 1 or leave.
Employees, whose request for religious exemption has been denied will be allowed an additional five weeks to get vaccinated and get their first shot by September 27, failing which their employment will be terminated.
The medical staff will look into requests for medical exemptions, while those based on religious beliefs would be handled by office personnel.
Flight attendants and pilots whose exemptions have been approved will not be allowed to return to work until the pandemic “meaningfully recedes,” the company said in a memo sent to its employees.
Canadian airlines WestJet has also asked its staffers to get fully vaccinated by October 30.
“Once we reach October 30, those (unvaccinated) individuals will then be placed on an unpaid leave for the month of November so that they can ultimately make that final determination and get the information that they need, if they so choose (to) go down the path of getting that first vaccine and then the second one four weeks after,” Richard Bartrem, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for WestJet, told Global News.
“In the event that that’s not the case come December 1, they would no longer be WestJet employees, unfortunately,” he said.
Vaccination certificates will be mandatory for new recruits in WestJet.
Other airlines have also come out with vaccine mandates in the wake of a surge in COVID-19 cases spurred by the Delta variant. Unvaccinated employees of Delta Air Lines will have to shell out $200 extra on a monthly basis for the health cover premium provided by the company. American Airlines and Alaskan Airlines will stop paid leave of unvaccinated workers.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)