Southwest Airlines offers employees six months leave at 50% pay

Southwest Airlines is offering employees the opportunity to take temporary leave at 50% pay to deal with the financial ramifications of the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Its voluntary Covid-19 Extended Emergency Time Off policy, which is available to contract employees, specified front-line supervisors and eligible non-contract staff or work groups, will allow employees to remain employed while taking a minimum of six months leave at 50% pay.

Employees will still receive all benefits offered by the organisation, including travel privileges and healthcare options, and Southwest Airlines will be able to ask employees to come back to work earlier if they are needed.

All contracted employees, active pilots and front-line supervisors can also opt-in to permanently leave the business under the Voluntary Separation Programme.

Employees will receive compensation depending on which work group they are in and how many years they have worked at Southwest Airlines. These payments will be based on a set number of hours, annual salary, or total-factor productivity. The volunteers will also receive travel privileges for four years and receive one year of health benefits.

Southwest Airlines has also confirmed that it plans to make further redundancies, reducing its current workforce by 30%.

Gary Kelly, chief executive officer at Southwest Airlines, said: “With the significant reduction in demand and projections for a slow recovery, and in an effort to avoid involuntary furloughs or layoffs, we are introducing voluntary programmes to help align our staffing numbers with demand for our business.

“This includes voluntary time off programmes, as well as a voluntary separation [redundancy] programme. These programmes are critical components to voluntarily reduce our workforce so that we can preserve the long-term viability of our business.

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“Every Southwest role is important and unique. Each plays a different part in our operation. Therefore, eligibility and programm erules will differ by work group given current staffing levels and projected future staffing needs.

“Know that we are taking every action possible to protect the Southwest family and jobs, but the imperative here is to ensure our organisation’s survival.”