Morrisons cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff

·3 min read
Morrisons cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff
Unvaccinated Morrisons workers who are forced to isolate but test negative will now receive statutory sick pay. Photo: Nathan Stirk/Getty

Morrisons confirmed on Tuesday that it has cut sick pay for its unvaccinated staff members who have to isolate after being exposed to COVID-19.

Unvaccinated Morrisons workers who are forced to isolate but test negative will now receive statutory sick pay of £96.35 ($131) a week.

Workers who test positive will receive the firm's full sick pay of at least £10 an hour.

Other large retailers such as Ikea, Next (NXT.L) and Ocado (OCDO.L) have made similar moves as COVID-related staff absences rise.

Watch: Why are millions of people not yet vaccinated against coronavirus?

The change in policy was first mentioned by Morrisons CEO Dave Potts in a conference call with investors in September, according to the Guardian.

The move was part of a plan to tackle the "biblical costs" of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic an was meant to encourage staff to get jabbed, the Guardian said.

Read more: TUC calls for better sick pay provision for UK COVID absences

The new policy will mean that unjabbed employees who are told by NHS Test and Trace that they need to isolate because they have been in contact with COVid-19 will only get the legal minimum amount of sick pay when they isolate.

In England, unvaccinated people must isolate for 10 days if they are exposed to COVID, even if they do not test positive themselves.

Morrisons said the new policy only applies to staff who choose to remain unvaccinated, and each individual is treated on a case-by-case basis.

Fully-vaccinated workers do not have to isolate when exposed to COVID and those who cannot receive the COVID vaccine for medical reasons are also not required to isolate in England.

Due to the rule change for vaccinated workers, which was introduced in August, unvaccinated employees have become more likely to take time off work than their vaccinated colleagues, even when they do not test positive for coronavirus.

A new government policy reducing minimum self-isolation from seven days to five days for those testing positive came into effect on Monday.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) warned that cutting the self-isolation period will not fix the UK’s “fundamental sick pay problem”.

Read more: UK wages fall below inflation as jobless rate declines

According to a TUC analysis, around 267,800 private sector workers were self-isolating in mid-December without enough sick pay, or any sick pay at all.

Statutory sick pay is the minimum amount employers must pay when their workers have to take time off due to illness. But some offer more — this is normally known as company or contractual sick pay.

Statutory sick pay is too low to meet basic living costs, the TUC said.

The UK has the least generous statutory sick pay compared to anywhere else in Europe, worth just £96.35 per week. This represents around 15% of average earnings, compared to an OECD average of over 60%.

In addition to this, it is only available to employees earning £120 per week or more, resulting in 2 million workers nationwide, mostly women, not being able to qualify.

The trade said cutting payment for unvaccinated staff is not the correct way to encourage employees to get the jab.

Read more: UK facing 'cash crisis' despite cashback schemes

“This is a serious public health failure,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.

“It beggars belief that two years into the pandemic, statutory sick pay is still too little to live on and two million workers can’t get any sick pay at all."

Sainsbury's (SBRY.L), Tesco (TSCO.L) and Asda currently pay unvaccinated workers full company sick pay when they are isolating.

Watch: What is inflation and why is it important?

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