Ikea cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff forced to self-isolate…
In an apparently emerging trend, Ikea have followed Morrisons and Wessex Water in announcing that they will be curtailing their company sick pay benefits during isolation periods for employees who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19.
The well known firm has confirmed that it has updated its policies to limit the occasions in which company sick pay will be due to individuals. According to the BBC article dated 10 January 2022 (click here to view the BBC article)., the move was in response to increased staff absences due to Covid-19 isolation requirements and increased staffing costs.
The issue of vaccination (and/or non-vaccination) is an extremely emotive and contentious topic. Businesses and individuals alike are split in their approaches to the subject but with the Omicron variant rife and isolation rules remaining in place, it is hard to deny that there has been a negative impact on many SME businesses across the country when it comes to the management of staff. To date, only care homes and CQC registered businesses are subject to a legal vaccination mandate and employers in other sectors who wish to implement a ‘No Jab, No Job’ policy will face a significant number of hurdles and risks, not least those pertaining to the protections afforded to workers by the Equality Act 2010. The move by Ikea and others could however been seen as a way forward for businesses who want to both, encourage staff to get vaccinated and have more control over the financial implications of the current isolation rules.
Employers who want to consider adjusting their company sick pay policies in a way reflective of Ikea and others will need to be able to objectively justify the proposed change and, when the company sick pay entitlement is contractual, embark upon a process of consultation with staff in an attempt to obtain their consent. Employers will not be able to implement a blanket ‘No Jab, No Company Sick Pay’ policy and they will have to include caveats for considerations including: medical conditions; religious belief; age and pregnancy, as well as considering each case on its own merits to look at the overall reasonableness and lawfulness of a decision to withhold any company sick pay. Employees will always be entitled to their statutory payment for any eligible periods of sickness/isolation and employers cannot contract out of this obligation.
In addition to legal and financial considerations, employers will also want to consider cultural and reputational effects of a policy which distinguishes on the basis of vaccination status. The issue of vaccination is divisive and there could be unexpected ethical challenges raised, which in turn may impact upon motivation and engagement levels. A ‘No Jab, No Company Sick Pay’ policy might also have the effect of increasing absences in the event that it could be said that any such policy was the cause of certain stress or anxiety related concerns.