Delta Air Lines to require all new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Photo (c) Joel Carillet - Getty Images

Many major companies are requiring the same and finding a good payoff

To demonstrate how serious it’s taking the opportunity to be flying again, Delta Air Lines will require all new employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The airline’s move makes it one of the few major corporations to mandate that hiring requirement.

“Any person joining Delta in the future, a future employee, we’re going to mandate they be vaccinated before they can sign up with the company,” Ed Bastian, the airline’s chief executive, said in a CNN interview on Thursday evening.

Bastian said Delta’s current staff is exempt, but he said 75-80% of employees have already been vaccinated and that he would “strongly encourage” the others to step up as well. 

Now that Delta has made the first move, it’s possible that other airlines may follow suit. But, for the time being, Delta is flying solo in this effort. United’s president Scott Kirby floated the idea to employees back in January, but he said the carrier could not “realistically be the only company” to do so. 

Vaccination requirements for employees are starting to grow

Should — or much less, can — companies require employees to be vaccinated to get or keep a job? “For large corporations, such decisions are thorny,” postured the New York Times’ Niraj Chokshi. “On one hand, requiring vaccinations for all employees would lower the anxiety of workers returning to the office and help the country reach herd immunity, which would support the economic rebound. On the other, it raises privacy concerns and could risk a backlash or even litigation.”

Nonetheless, companies are starting to lean toward a pro-vaccination requirement. A new survey, conducted by Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, found that nearly 70% of U.S. and U.K. employers currently perform COVID-19 testing for their employees, and 90% intend to motivate or require vaccination. 

Those in favor of the requirement say they’ve seen one impressive payoff — that productivity and morale are up. A majority of employers said their employees’ engagement and productivity have gone up since the pandemic, and 44% report that employee morale has gone up. That’s compared to 26% indicating that morale went down since the pandemic began. 

Mental health and employee burnout had a devastating impact during the pandemic. Close to 80% of employers said the mental health of their workers has become a top priority since the pandemic started. Half the employers said they’re stepping up and making available company resources related to mental health.

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