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Cuts to sick pay for unvaccinated staff

View profile for Kate Johnson
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Ikea, Next and Morrisons cut enhanced sick pay for unvaccinated employees who need to self-isolate

Ikea, Next and Morrisons have all publicly announced big changes to their contractual enhanced sickness policies, directly impacting unvaccinated employees.

In England, people who are vaccinated with at least two doses need not self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid. Unvaccinated people contacted through the government's test-and-trace system must still isolate by law.

Ikea view their amendments as necessary, to keep up with the ever-evolving circumstances. Such changes are currently effective and include:

1. Fully vaccinated employees or those that are unvaccinated owing to mitigating circumstances which, for example, could include pregnancy or other medical grounds, will receive full pay.

2. Unvaccinated employees without mitigating circumstances that test positive with Covid will be paid full company sick pay in line with our company absence policy.

3. Unvaccinated employees without mitigating circumstances who have been identified as close contacts of a positive case will be paid Statutory Sick Pay only, which currently sits at a weekly rate of £96.35. 

Next and Morrisons swiftly followed suit and are now the latest major businesses to restrict enhanced sick pay for unvaccinated employees, akin to Ikea. 

Such a move may illustrate a shifting mood for employers on the vaccination issue and may be seen as less extreme compared to the earlier “no jab no job” approach, which is echoed in the US, by Citigroup bank who announced that it would dismiss any employees who were unvaccinated by next month.

Such an approach could encourage employees to get vaccinated, but equally, could lead to employees being less vigilant with testing or failing to abide by the self-isolation requirements owing to financial concerns.

Financial penalties in the form of reducing enhanced sick pay to statutory sick pay could help encourage and incentivise more employees to get the vaccine however this could create liability for discrimination claims, should an employee have elected not to be vaccinated on the grounds of their religion, philosophical belief or disability (Protected Characteristics). Notwithstanding this, penalising the unvaccinated is so far untested in the Employment Tribunal but is a risk companies need to be alive to. Careful consideration needs to be applied on a case-by-case basis as treating an employee less favourably because of their Protected Characteristics will amount to discrimination unless such action is proportionate to achieving the aim of getting employees back into work.

Amending company policies surrounding this topic is not without risk and therefore legal advice should be obtained in the first instance to avoid discrimination liabilities.

Contact our employment team on 01827 317070 if you need advice on this.