Sick pay cut for unvaccinated workers as firms struggle with staff shortages
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Next, which has stores across Norfolk and Suffolk, is among three businesses that have announced they are cutting sick pay for unvaccinated workers who have to self-isolate due to being exposed to Covid.
As high profile business begin to reduce sick pay for unvaccinated workers, other businesses across East Anglia could follow suit.
Along with Next, furniture giant Ikea and online grocery firm Ocado have revealed they will be cutting sick pay for unvaccinated workers who have to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone with Covid to the Statutory Sick Pay, unless they have mitigating circumstances.
Unvaccinated workers at all firms will still receive full sick pay if they have to self-isolate after receiving a positive Covid test result.
The minimum Statutory Sick Pay is £96.35 per week. While staff cannot be paid less than this, employers can choose to pay their staff more.
James Kidd, a partner at the legal firm Mills & Reeve with an office in Norwich, explained that if staff are off work due to illness they should get the sick pay they are normally entitled to.
"If I'm sick, I'm sick so I should get what my employer pays," he said.
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Prior to the government changing its guidelines, all people who were exposed to Covid had to self-isolate.
Now, the government guidelines allows vaccinated people to avoid self-isolating if they have been exposed to Covid, but unvaccinated people still have to self-isolate.
Mr Kidd explained that it means that workers are making a choice to be unvaccinated and could come to work if they choose to be vaccinated, which has allowed firms to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff.
Businesses considering cutting sick pay for workers who are unvaccinated and having to self-isolate need to take into account mitigating circumstances that could have led to the person remaining unvaccinated.
"Employers need to be super careful," Mr Kidd said. "They need to make sure managers can have a conversation with workers to see why they are unvaccinated. They need to find out if the worker is medically exempt.
"This will mean having to have awkward conversations. It will also mean having to be consistent throughout the business and make sure everyone is treated the same."
Employers have to make sure that they are not discriminating against unvaccinated people who cannot be vaccinated due to a disability or for religious reasons.
Graham Irons a Partner at Howes Percival, a commercial law firm with an office in Norwich, said: "What is the reason someone is not vaccinated? If it is a religious reason that they are unvaccinated it could be discrimination.
"Employers need to consider whether holding pay back from unvaccinated workers could be considered discriminatory."
Mr Kidd added: "I can see why employers are doing this. But I can see it penalising unvaccinated people."
Although firms have not revealed why they have decided to cut sick pay, it could be due to them struggling to stay open with staff off work self-isolating.
Businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors are likely to need staff physically in their shops and outlets to keep open and running efficiently.
The surge in the omicron variant this winter has resulted in some firms within these sectors facing staff shortages, which has impacted many small businesses who have not had the number of employees needed to keep their business open.
Under current government guidelines anyone who tests positive for Covid has to self-isolate for 10 days.
Those who have been told to self-isolate through the NHS Test or Trace or NHS Covid app have to self-isolate for 10 days and may get fined if they fail to do so.
People who are fully vaccinated, under 18, taking part in an approved Covid vaccine trial, or cannot get vaccinated due to a medical condition do not need to self-isolate if they live with or come into close contact with someone with Covid.
But unvaccinated people do need to self-isolate if they live with or come into close contact with someone with Covid.