Major companies cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers

Financial penalties are being imposed on unvaccinated workers who are forced to self-isolate

14 Jan 2022| News

Recent weeks have seen a number of large companies impose a financial penalty of one kind or another on unvaccinated workers who are forced to self-isolate.

On Sunday, the Guardian reported that Swedish-owned furniture retailer IKEA has reduced sick pay for unvaccinated staff who are off work due to self-isolation. Those workers are now only eligible for statutory sick pay of £96.35 a week during 10 days of isolation, in comparison to more than £400 before tax for an average worker on the shop floor.

Whilst IKEA, who employ over 10,000 workers in the UK, say they will consider mitigating circumstances, the move has generated some anger amongst their employees. However, IKEA are not the only company to have imposed these rules.

Major retailers such as Walmart in the USA and Morrisons here in the UK are increasing the pressure on staff who refuse to be vaccinated without a valid reason. This week, the BBC have reported that Ocado and Next have cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who self-isolate because of Covid exposure. Until recently, most businesses have been concentrating on encouraging staff to get vaccinated, for example, by offering paid time off for employees to have a Covid-19 jab. These financial penalties signal a change in approach.

IKEA have said that its sick pay policy was adapting to changing government requirements and the vaccine rollout across the UK.

“We know this is a highly emotive topic and we appreciate there are many unique circumstances,” a representative said.

The inadequacies of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) have been highlighted throughout the pandemic. As the Institute for Employment Rights identified a few weeks ago, nearly two thirds of employers think the current level of SSP is too low, yet the Government has so far resisted calls for a review of the scheme.

Whilst explaining that the union “absolutely encourages” people who are able to, to get vaccinated, Unite national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel said:

“Such strong-arm tactics will result in issues around equalities, human rights and ethical breaches. The pandemic has taught us that workers who can’t afford to self-isolate will be tempted to continue working, as the economic consequences of not doing so are dire.”