A traveler wearing a protective mask waits to board a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport on October 15, 2020.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
United Airlines employees who are granted exemptions from a company’s vaccination mandate for religious reasons will be given temporary unpaid leave starting next month, the airline said on Wednesday, citing the recent spike in Covid cases.
The airline said last month that its 67,000 U.S. employees will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 this fall, but said it would consider exemptions based on religious and personal beliefs, as well as medical reasons.
Airlines’ approaches to promoting vaccination rates for their employees vary. Delta Air Lines is adding a $ 200 surcharge on company health awards to unvaccinated employees. Delta, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines will end wage protection for unvaccinated employees who are sick with Covid-19 or exposed to Covid-19.
United said Wednesday that if an employee’s request for a religious exemption is denied, they must be vaccinated within five weeks of the denial notification and receive the first vaccination by September 27, or they will be given notice.
Pilots, flight attendants, gate agents and airport customer service representatives who interact with customers granted these exemptions will be able to go back to work “once the pandemic has receded significantly,” United said without giving the timeframe.
Other employees such as mechanics and dispatchers who have been granted exemptions will be able to return to work after the airline takes new tests and other measures, the airline said in a staff note. It still determines the security measures for office workers with exceptions and whether they have to come at all.
Employees granted a medical exemption for not receiving the vaccine will be given temporary medical leave.