With just five days until United Airlines will start putting unvaccinated US employees on leave, the company says 97% of workers have complied with its mandate.
“United will start the separation process as early as September 28,” confirmed spokesperson Leslie Scott, who noted that only a “small number” of workers have requested an exemption based on health or religious reasons. “The good news is that large majorities of our employees continue to upload their vaccination records.”
United announced a vaccine mandate for all 67,000 US-based workers last month.
No other major airline has issued such a mandate, though several have signaled that more guidance is coming. And unlike some other companies, United isn’t allowing unvaccinated employees to take weekly Covid tests as an alternative.
“While we continue to be encouraged by the outpouring of support and appreciation that we’ve received from employees, we know the decision to get vaccinated was a difficult one for some,” United’s update said. “But we also know that everyone is safer when everyone is vaccinated. And vaccine requirements work.”
Very few United employees have resigned rather than get the vaccine, CEO Scott Kirby said last week in an interview with CNN. He said he expected resignations to increase ahead of the deadline, but he believed that most workers who had yet to confirm their status are in fact vaccinated and just haven’t gotten around to uploading proof of their vaccination status.
United employees who receive a exemption for health reasons will be placed on medical leave — which can include some portion of their pay, depending on their specific union contract — while those who granted a religious exemption will be placed on unpaid leave.
Kirby added in the CNN interview that the Biden administration’s policy requiring employer vaccine or testing mandates for businesses with 100 or more employees “is probably the most efficient way, as opposed to creating friction in airports, friction in subways, friction across the board.”
And though United is taking a strong stance on its worker mandate, Kirby told CNN last week he doesn’t believe that requiring vaccines for airline passengers is a good idea.
“I don’t think [mandating vaccination for] air travel on its own will drive a huge increase in vaccination rates,” he said. “I think this employer mandate will drive a really big increase.”