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Covid -19: Spotlight on Sick Pay and the ‘Unvaccinated’

A few employers have been hitting the headlines in relation to the approach they are taking when it comes to Covid-19 and sick pay for unvaccinated employees. One of the most recent being IKEA who in a statement have said that full company sick pay is available for all employees who test positive for Covid-19 but only SSP is available for those self-isolating after being identified as a close contact (unless their reason for being unvaccinated falls under the company’s mitigating circumstances exemption).

Such reports may have got employers thinking about sick pay and particularly unvaccinated employees in their workplace. If you are one of those employers, here’s a few things it can be helpful to bear in mind.

1. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

As a minimum employers will need to pay employees SSP if they meet the qualifying requirements for it. Many employers pay SSP only (as opposed to enhanced company sick pay) so restricting sick pay further would be unsafe. Whilst Covid-19 related absences and the requirement for most people to self-isolate if they aren’t fully vaccinated and are a close contact of a covid case can be frustrating, the government are at least temporarily re-introducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. This will help to support small and medium sized employers to recover up to two weeks’ SSP for each employee who is off work due to Covid-19.

2. Changing Company Sick Pay

While taking a similar approach to IKEA when it comes to company sick pay or making other changes may initially seem attractive, such steps won’t be without their difficulties and many employers may conclude that making changes is not appropriate for their organisation.

If you are an employer that provides enhanced contractual sick pay and are considering whether to make any changes to it, as a starting point you will need to think about what changes you may wish to make, the business reasons for them and to assess the impact such changes may have on the workforce and whether they are proportionate. It will be important to think about whether there could be any unintended effects, such as an increase in the risk of unvaccinated employees not adhering to self isolation rules if they are a close contact of a covid case or adverse impact on employee recruitment, retention or employee relations.

It’s also important to:

  • Bear in mind potential discrimination risks. In particular, remember some employees may be medically exempt from vaccination or have other grounds for being unvaccinated. If an employer wishes to make changes to sick pay, in some situations this could lead to complaints of discrimination.
  • Be aware that contractual benefits such as company sick pay should not be changed unilaterally as this can give rise to employment tribunal claims such as constructive unfair dismissal and unlawful deductions from wages. For advice on the process to follow, which includes consultation with employees to try to gain their agreement to the proposed changes (and in some situations compliance with collective consultation obligations) please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.

If you are considering making any change to sick pay for employees, it’s important to seek advice on the facts of your case from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd before taking any action.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact us as we are happy to help.


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