The retail giant joins a growing list of firms changing their rules as staff absences and costs begin to bite.
Ikea has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate because of Covid exposure, joining a growing list of firms changing their rules.
The retail giant acknowledged it was an “emotive topic” but said its policy had to evolve with changing circumstances.
From this week, sick pay cuts will be implemented at Wessex Water and in the US several major companies have starting penalising unjabbed workers.
It comes as firms struggle with mass staff absences and rising costs.
At Ikea unvaccinated workers who are required to isolate could now receive as little as £96.35 a week – the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) minimum. Average pay at Ikea is between about £400 and £450, depending on location. The move was first reported by the Mail on Sunday.
Ikea, which employs about 10,000 people in the UK, said in a statement: “Fully vaccinated co-workers or those with mitigating circumstances will receive full pay for self-isolations.
“Unvaccinated co-workers will be paid in line with our company absence policy for self-isolation, with close-contact isolation being paid at Statutory Sick Pay.
“We appreciate that this is an emotive topic and all circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis, therefore anyone in doubt or concerned about their situation is encouraged to speak to their manager.”
In England, people who are vaccinated with at least two doses need not self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid. Unvaccinated people contacted through the government’s test-and-trace system must still isolate by law.
Many companies complained of labour shortages throughout 2021, and now are seeing mass absences due to the more infectious Omicron Covid strain.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeated on Monday that the data continued to show those people most seriously affected by Omicron remained the unvaccinated.
Wessex Water’s sick pay rule change comes into force this week.
Any employee without at least one Covid-19 vaccination – who does not have a valid medical reason – or does not have a confirmed vaccination appointment, will get only statutory sick pay if required to self-isolate due to close contact with someone testing positive.
A Wessex Water spokesperson said absences have soared this year: “The vast majority of our workforce has been vaccinated and it’s important as a company providing essential services with key worker employees, the remainder get vaccinated to protect themselves, customers and their colleagues.
“Absences due to Covid have doubled in the last week, so we need everyone to be available so we can continue to provide uninterrupted essential water and sewerage services.”
The company said that throughout the pandemic it had not furloughed staff and those self-isolating had received full pay.
Last year, supermarket Morrisons cut its sick pay levels, while several companies, including banking giant Citigroup, introduced a “no jab, no job” policy. Delta Airlines imposed a surcharge on unvaccinated staff members of its healthcare plan.
UK trade unions are concerned about staff relying on only statutory sick pay because they say the rate is too low, forcing workers to ignore isolation rules and spread the infection.
Earlier this month, David Josephs, boss of food importer and retailer All Greens, told the BBC that staff at some firms were ignoring Covid rules because they could not afford time off.
“We know that in our sector a lot of staff do not get paid sick pay. Ours do – but staff who are on limited contracts or on minimum wage cannot afford to be off work,” he said.