Morrisons, amongst many other businesses in the UK, has announced that employees will face cuts to their covid sick pay.
The supermarket chain has said it will reduce the sick pay of unvaccinated staff who will have to isolate if they contract covid or come into contact with someone who has tested positive for covid-19.
Currently, any employees at Morrisons who have not had two doses of the vaccine must self-isolate even with negative tests get statutory sick pay payments of £96.35 a week.
Any staff that test positive for Covid and are required to isolate receive full sick pay regardless of their vaccine status.
If the NHS Test and Trace app tells an unvaccinated member of staff they have been in close contact with a person who has Covid-19, they only receive a statutory sick pay payment when they isolate, this is the legal minimum a company has to pay for sick leave.
If NHS Test and Trace informs an unvaccinated member of staff that they have been exposed to Covid-19, they will only get statutory sick pay when they isolate. Statutory sick pay is the legal minimum.
Morrisons employees who test positive for Covid are paid full sick leave whilst they are undertaking isolation.
The new policy that Morrisons is implementing only applies to those workers who have chosen not to get the vaccine, with every member of staff being treated on a case by case basis.
Dave Potts, the chief executive for Morrisons, first mentioned the new policy in a conference calls with investors back in September, The Guardian was told.
The introduction of this new policy was part of a process to tackle the “biblical costs’ the company was facing through dealing with the pandemic.
It is also hoped that the move will encourage workers to go and get the vaccine.
Fully-vaccinated workers were no longer required to isolate upon exposure to Covid in England in August last year.
This meant, however that unvaccinated employees were more likely to have time off compared to any staff who do have the vaccine even if they weren’t infected with covid.
Many companies are constricting their sick pay rules due to the number of staff absences they have been facing. Especially since the rise of the more infection covid variant, Omicron
Over the last few weeks, stores like Ikea, Ocado and Next have announced that they will be changing their policy on staff who are unvaccinated and who have been exposed to the virus.
Sick pay cuts have already been enforced at Wessex Water, whilst in the United States, many major companies have started penalising unvaccinated staff.
At this moment in time, Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys do still pay any unvaccinated workers full company sick pay when they are required to isolate.
Beth Hale, who is a partner at the employment law firm C M Murray has said that any arguments that these policies promote discriminates amongst staff will be unlikely to succeed, stating that being opposed to the vaccination programme was “unlikely to be a protected belief for the purposes of the Equality Act.”
Beth Hale added –
“While the policy may have a disproportionate impact on those from certain ethnic or religious groups (which could give rise to a claim for indirect discrimination), an employer may well be able to justify the policy on the basis of their legitimate business needs.”
“Employers that are struggling with staff absences because of large case numbers, makes it seem reasonable that they want to take these steps to encourage their employees to get vaccinated.”
Ms Hale recommended that employers be careful that their policies are communicated carefully and sensitively to avoid staff relation issues.