Employers cut company sick pay for unvaccinated employees
- Supermarket Morrisons have confirmed that they are following other big retailers including IKEA, Next and Ocado as staff absences rise.
- It means unvaccinated staff who are told to isolate but test negative will receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £96.35 a week and will no longer be entitled to receive Company Sick Pay.
- However, any employee who tests positive will be paid full sick pay while they self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status.
SSP and self-isolation rules:
SSP is the minimum rate of sick pay and employee receives when they are unable to work due to incapacity. An employee will qualify for SSP if they:
- Are classed as an employee and have done some work for the employer;
- Earn an average of at least £120 per week;
- Have been ill or self-isolating for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days).
If an employee is self-isolating because of Covid-19, they will be entitled to SSP from day 1 of their absence from work. They will be entitled to receive £96.35 a week.
In addition to this, some employers may operate a company sick pay policy which provides for full pay during absence due to incapacity.
Why are they implementing changes to the sick pay?
It seems more and more retailers are tightening their sick pay rules and following in the steps made by IKEA in September 2021, as they face mass absences due to the Omicron variant and the need for individuals to self-isolate if they have been in close contact and are not vaccinated.
IKEA said in a statement, “Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances that test positive with Covid will be paid full company pay in line with our company absence policy….Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances who have been identified as close contacts of a positive case will be paid SSP”.
It seems the change in stance on company sick pay has come about because of labour shortages and the rising cost mass staff absences are having on companies.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed last week that data continued to show those people most seriously affected by Omicron remained the unvaccinated.
The new policy and the risks:
The new policies the big retailers are enforcing mean that unvaccinated employees will not receive company sick pay if they are required to self-isolate because they have been identified as a close contact. Instead they will receive SSP.
However, is it that simple? Can you put a blanket ban on staff receiving company sick pay if they are unvaccinated?
The answer is no. It is extremely important that such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. If you were to implement a blanket ban it could result in discrimination, breach of contract and data protection claims being brought against the employer.
It could result in a costly move if not enough consideration has been taken in deciding whether to implement a change to the sickness policy. It does not however, mean that employers are prevented from taking active steps in managing the issue of increasing staff absences and pressures on the business.
– Lucy Richards, 20/01/2022