United Airlines has become the first major airline to require all of its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. All 67,000 of the company’s employees have until October 25 to get vaccinated or they’ll risk being fired.
In a Friday memo to employees, United CEO Scott Kirby and President Brett Hart said the decision is rooted in United’s priority of keeping everyone safe.
“We know some of you will disagree with this decision to require the vaccine for all United employees,” the executives wrote. “But, we have no greater responsibility to you and your colleagues than to ensure your safety when you’re at work, and the facts are crystal clear: everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated.”
Mandating employee vaccination
By October 25, employees must upload proof that they received the recommended doses of any of the three vaccines that have received emergency-use approval from the FDA. Alternatively, employees have five weeks to get inoculated after the FDA grants full approval to any one vaccine -- “whichever comes first.” Full approval of the Pfizer vaccine is expected by early next month.
Exceptions will be made for those with medical or religious reasons, United said. Employees who are already vaccinated and can upload an image of their vaccination card before September 20 will be eligible for "an additional day of pay," Kirby and Hart said.
Earlier this week, Tyson Foods mandated COVID-19 vaccines for its employees. The company said half of its workers are already vaccinated, but the other half will have until October 1 to get fully vaccinated. Tyson also said it would make exceptions for employees with certain health conditions or religious reasons.
United’s decision to mandate vaccines is likely to have a ripple effect in the airline industry. Other airlines have offered incentives like extra pay or time off for vaccinations, but they haven’t required vaccinations. However, Delta Air Lines began requiring new employees to show proof of vaccination in May. United announced the same requirement the following month.