Calgary

WestJet will require all workers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19

WestJet will require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 30, the Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday. 

Those who don't meet the requirement could face unpaid leave or termination of employment

A WestJet employee assists people checking in for a domestic flight at Vancouver International Airport on Jan. 21, 2021. WestJet will require all employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19, in line with the federal government's requirements for the air travel industry. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

WestJet will require all of its employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 30, the Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday. 

Full vaccination will also be a requirement for new hires going forward. 

Mark Porter, the company's executive vice-president of people, said the requirement will ensure a safe travel and work environment.

"Protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees remains our No. 1 priority, and vaccinations are our best line of defence," said Porter in a statement. 

The company's mandate is in line with the Government of Canada's requirement for employees in all the federally regulated air, rail and marine transportation sectors to be vaccinated by the end of October.

Ottawa's requirement, which encompasses air travellers as well, was put in place in recognition of the country's public health situation, the government has said. 

"Since the start of the vaccination campaign in mid-December, less than one per cent of COVID-19 cases have been among those who were fully protected by the vaccine," says the release from the Treasury Board, announcing the federal transportation sector vaccine requirements in August.

"These measures will contribute to reaching the overall levels of vaccination Canada needs to sustain a resilient economic recovery in the face of more transmissible and dangerous COVID-19 variants of concern."

Air Canada had announced a mandatory vaccination policy in late August. 

Those WestJet employees who are unable to be vaccinated through "medical or other exemption" will be evaluated and accommodated, the company said.

Those who do not meet the vaccination requirement in time, or who do not attest to their status by Sept. 24, will face unpaid leave or termination of employment. The company won't provide testing as an alternative to vaccination. 

WestJet has more than 6,000 employees currently working, with another 4,000 employees inactive or furloughed. WestJet's low-cost carrier Swoop has 340 active employees and 170 who are inactive or furloughed. 

Of Canada's total population, 67.7 per cent were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, or 77.5 per cent of the eligible population ages 12 and up. There were more than 37,000 active COVID-19 cases across the country. 

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