Delta Air Lines is increasing the cost of health care for employees who refuse to get vaccinated.
Unvaccinated employees will pay up to $200 per month more for their company health insurance starting November 1, according to the airline. It will also limit how many sick days non-vaccinated employees can take if they contract Covid-19.
Unvaccinated employees will also be required to take weekly Covid tests.
Delta (DAL) CEO Ed Bastian announced the news in a memo to the entire company, which the company shared with CNN.
“While we can be proud of our 75% vaccination rate, the aggressiveness of the variant means we need to get many more of our people vaccinated, and as close to 100% as possible,” said Bastian.
“The average hospital stay for Covid-19 has cost Delta $50,000 per person,” said the airline. “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”
According to the company, all cases of Covid-19 among Delta employees have been among the unvaccinated since the rise of the Delta variant, whose name has nothing to do with the airline.
“This is not just costing lives, this is costing us financial resources as well,” Bastain said on CNN Wednesday.
Delta has only recently begun to turn a profit after losing $12.9 billion since the beginning of 2020.
Beginning September 12, any US employee who has not been fully vaccinated will be required to take a weekly coronavirus test “while community case rates are high,” according to Delta. Those who receive a positive result, according to the airline, should isolate themselves and avoid going to work.
Unvaccinated workers who become ill with Covid-19 or are unable to work due to a positive test will face new restrictions.
Delta employees who are sick get up to 14 days of “Covid pay protection” before having to use their standard company sick days, thanks to legislation passed by Congress last year. Unvaccinated employees will no longer be employed after September 30, according to Delta.
“In compliance with state and local laws, Covid pay protection will only be provided to fully vaccinated individuals who are experiencing a breakthrough infection,” said the memo to employees.
Unvaccinated employees must also wear masks in “all indoor Delta settings,” according to the airline. A federal mask requirement for air travel remains in effect until at least January 18, 2022, for both passengers and crew.
Delta has opted out of the vaccine mandate imposed on United Airlines (UAL) employees in the United States. American and Southwest, the country’s other two major airlines, have also opted out of a mandate.
However, in response to the surge in Delta variant covid cases, a number of well-known companies, including Google (GOOG) and Facebook (FB), as well as Wall Street banks like Goldman Sachs (GS) and Morgan Stanley (MS), have begun implementing mandates.
Many other employers, on the other hand, are hesitant to impose vaccine mandates because they fear losing employees if they do. According to a June survey by health policy think tank KFF, when unvaccinated workers were asked what they would do if their employer implemented a mandate, half said they would quit.
“Every company has to make its own decision [on mandates] for its culture, its people, what works according to its values,” Bastian told CNN. “I think these added voluntary steps, short of mandating a vaccine, will get us as close to 100% as we can.”
In a recent interview with CNN, Scott Kirby, the CEO of United Airlines, said that his airline’s vaccine mandate has prompted some resistance from employees who are anti-vaccine. He was pleasantly surprised, however, to learn that the vast majority of employees who contacted him about the mandate were in favor of it.
“The reason we did this is I know that a year from now, even if there are some people who are still unhappy with me about doing this, there will be some people who are alive who otherwise wouldn’t have been because we required a vaccine,” Kirby told CNN.