January 19, 2022

No sick pay for unvaccinated staff

This post was written by: Ilinca Mardarescu

The tensions surrounding people’s choice on whether to have the vaccine or not has recently had a lot of airtime. Few have missed the problems being unvaccinated has caused to Novak’s career recently when his visa was repealed in Australia.

Ikea have also now weighed in with the announcement that they will be cutting company sick pay for those employees who are not double-jabbed. Indeed, although Ikea has received the most publicity for this, other companies have also announced a similar intention.

Ikea’s reasoning for this is that staffing levels currently are a great concern and those who are not double-jabbed have to self-isolate if they have come into close contact with someone who has Covid. This could mean that a considerable proportion of staff would have to be off work without even being ill but purely due to the fact they have not had their double vaccinations. The company has said that throughout the pandemic it had not furloughed staff and those self-isolating had received full pay. Company sick pay is that over and above the required statutory sick pay which is currently set at £96.50 per week. But it is in fact common for the entitlement to company sick pay to have some conditions attached (such as the requirement to see a company-appointed doctor as required). However, the aim of this recent change is for Ikea to be able to keep its stores open and running effectively, which it is currently struggling to do. Ikea has been at pains to point out that this will not be a blanket approach however and that they will consider each and every case individually. In truth, that is the only way they would be able to avoid potential claims of disability or other discrimination. There are those who cannot have the vaccinations or have medical reasons for not having them.

In legal terms, the decision will fall to managers to consider any mitigating circumstances. No doubt they will be supported by HR but training on issues to consider in these circumstances is essential. The proposed changes will also need to be implemented correctly to avoid any allegations that such changes are a breach of employee’s contracts.

The decision is bound to be a controversial one but, implemented in the correct way, is not necessarily an illegal one. Ikea have a legitimate aim which is to avoid too many staff members being off work, especially unnecessarily so. The question as to whether their actions are proportionate will no doubt be closely scrutinised and may well end up being the subject of a challenge later on. it will also be interesting to see how many other companies adopt a similar approach. But irrespective of the legalities, some will no doubt argue that this is yet another way of adding pressure for those that have chosen not to be vaccinated.