Retail chains cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers

Simran Lalli

Morrison’s have joined leading retail brands such as IKEA, Next, and Ocado in announcing their intention to reduce sick pay for unvaccinated employees.

This means that any unvaccinated member of staff will only be entitled to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) minimum of £96.35 per week if they are instructed to self-isolate by test and trace yet test negative for COVID-19. Those workers that test positive for COVID will continue to receive company sick pay regardless of their vaccination status.

Morrison’s have confirmed that this policy applies to workers who are unvaccinated by choice, and each individual will be treated on a case-by-case basis. The retail chain has introduced policies to limit sick pay in circumstances where unvaccinated staff test negative for COVID-19 but are required to self-isolate and do not have a medical exemption or mitigating circumstances to explain their unvaccinated status. For those fully vaccinated – even if they are a close contact of or share a household with someone that test positive – they are no longer required to self-isolate if they test negative via a lateral flow test. This of course means that if self-isolation for unvaccinated staff were treated as paid sickness absence, the costs to the employer could be higher than for those who are vaccinated and so not having to self-isolate at all.

What are your sick pay rights?

SSP is the minimum amount that employers must pay when an employee is unable to work as a result of sickness. Companies are now tightening their sick pay rules as they face further staff shortages and rising costs, particularly in the wake of the Omicron variant of the virus.

In most cases, your contract of employment will set out what your rights are in respect of sick pay.  An employer cannot pay less than the SSP amount. If an employer pays more than SSP, it is known as ‘company’, ‘contractual’ or ‘occupational’ sick pay.  There is no absolute entitlement to company sick pay, as this will be at your employer’s discretion.

Employers must pay SSP to employees and workers when they meet eligibility conditions, including when:

  • They have been off sick or self-isolating for at least 4 days in a row, including non-working days.
  • They earn on average at least £120 a week, before tax.
  • They have told their employer within any deadline the employer has set or within 7 days.

If you are an employee and wish to discuss your legal rights or an employer who requires advice on your HR policies and procedures in respect of sickness absence and pay, please feel free to email me or contact the department on 020 8858 6971.