United Airlines is putting its flight attendants in an interesting position this upcoming holiday, as reported by Live and Let’s Fly. I see where United is coming from, and also think the requirement is a bit unreasonable…
United requiring absence certificate if sick
United Airlines’ flight attendant contract allows the airline to request that those who call in sick over the holidays present an “absence certificate.” The airline will be enforcing this requirement for the upcoming holiday season.
The way this works:
- The airline can require this between July 1 and July 7, as well as between December 20 and January 4
- The airline has to notify the union in advance if it intends to require this
- Flight attendants who have no absences in the past 12 calendar months are not subjected to this absence certificate requirement
The way this absence certificate works:
- An absence certificate requires an in-person visit with a doctor
- The certificate has to be submitted within 72 hours of calling in sick
- The certificate has to be submitted to United Medical, rather than to a supervisor, since it contains personal medical information
Is this a reasonable requirement from United?
The important thing to first acknowledge is that United has exercised this option in past years, so it’s not like this requirement is new as of this year. Other airlines have historically had similar policies as well. However, you’d think in some ways coronavirus would have changed this.
I can see both sides here, but personally I think United management is ultimately being unreasonable with the execution of this. In the past I feel like we’d sometimes think “well, I’m not feeling great, but I’ll do X anyway.” With coronavirus being a thing:
- You should always err on the side of caution if you’re not feeling well, even if you don’t have a fever
- Even if you’re not actually sick, it can be extremely unpleasant for everyone (especially yourself) if you’re in public with a cough, runny nose, etc.
- If you do call in sick, you’ll need to go for an in-person visit to a doctor; I imagine hospitals and doctor’s offices will be very busy this holiday season, you’re only increasing your risk by going to a doctor in-person, etc.
Personally I think the requirement isn’t totally reasonable, and it’s almost encouraging people to show up to work if they’re sick or not feeling well. I think it would be much more reasonable if a virtual consultation were required.
At the same time, I get the situation from United’s perspective:
- Some flight attendants may just not want to fly due to the risk, because they want to be with their family for the holidays, etc.
- The airline has furloughed lots of workers, and the holidays is likely to test United’s limits when it comes to staffing flights; the airline could see a huge number of cancelations if more people than usual call in sick (we just saw this at Delta)
This holiday season, United Airlines will require some flight attendants who call in sick to prove it by going to an in-person visit with a doctor.
I see both sides here. On the one hand, United is going to be short-staffed, and if a lot of employees call in sick, the airline will likely have a large number of cancelations. At the same time, it seems like this is encouraging people to come to work when they’re not feeling well, which seems counterproductive.
What do you make of United’s policy for flight attendants who call in sick around Christmas and New Year’s? Is it fair, or not?