Delta Air Lines said a fifth of its unvaccinated employees received a COVID-19 shot in the two weeks since the airline announced that they would be subject to a $200 monthly surcharge, providing support for companies that are hesitant to impose mandates.
The carrier also hasn’t seen a rise in employee turnover, Chief Health Officer Henry Ting said at a media briefing Thursday. Delta’s employee vaccination rate has increased to 78% from 74% since it became the first major U.S. employer to levy a penalty. Separately, new data from the Society for Human Resource Management found that employees might threaten to quit over a mandate but haven’t really done so thus far.
The findings come as President Joe Biden prepares to announce a vaccine mandate for all executive-branch employees and federal contractors, part of a broader push to quell the pandemic, according to a person familiar with the plan. That move, plus the full approval of Pfizer‘s vaccine last month, has spurred many companies to consider mandates of their own.
Still, corporate vaccine policies vary widely, Bloomberg found, with about half of more than 100 companies saying they have a mandate in place for at least some staff. It’s often only for office workers rather than front-line staff.
Delta’s health chief said about half of its 80,000 employees rushed to get the vaccine as soon as it was available, but about 20,000 held out. Most of the unvaccinated “are those who are on the fence,” Ting said, while there is a smaller group of people “who simply don’t want to be told what to do.”
The airline has seen no increase in resignations because of its surcharge, he said. That’s in line with a new survey of human-resources professionals that found that less than 2% have witnessed employee resignations over the need to be vaccinated and other COVID-19 policies.
“People are saying they will resign but there is a cognitive dissonance in what they actually do,” Alexander Alonso, chief knowledge officer at the Society for Human Resource Management, said at the briefing, which was held by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “The great resignation movement is typically not related to the vaccine.”
Delta has been able to hire 6,000 new workers this year — who all must be vaccinated — to respond to the recent uptick in air travel.
“We’ve seen no drop off in people willing to join us,” Ting said.
The carrier stopped short of a mandatory vaccine requirement like those imposed by rival United Airlines and other companies. Goldman Sachs, Google and Walmart also have announced vaccine requirements.
Delta’s surcharge will apply to employees in the airline’s health-care plan who haven’t received shots by Nov. 1. The company will require weekly testing for employees who aren’t vaccinated by mid-September.