Can we stop contractual sick pay to employees having to self-isolate if they are unvaccinated?

If you have stopped watching the news as so many people have these days, you may have missed this recent story in the press and social media. There are a number of companies such as Ikea, Next, Morrisons and Ocado who have withdrawn contractual sick pay for unvaccinated staff who have to isolate as a contact of someone with Covid, limiting their pay to statutory sick pay (SSP) only for the isolation period.  There are also reports that many other companies will follow suit.

Ikea have reportedly been clear that they will make exceptions for those unvaccinated for good reason, presumably including medical reasons, and they have said each decision will be taken on a case by case basis, which is a sensible approach, and is to protect themselves from possible indirect discrimination claims if someone cannot be vaccinated due to disability or philosophical belief.

Employers thinking about implementing such a policy to withdraw company sick pay if they offer it to employees, should include safeguards but also, before making any changes, consider whether company sick pay is a contractual term, and it may be considered a contractual if custom and practice has meant people have been paid at full pay for all absences in the past.  If it is a contractual term, it can’t be changed unilaterally and full consultation is required.  Failure to do so could result in constructive dismissal claims.

All of these risks need to be weighed up and balanced against the cost of absence and employee relations challenges – do you upset the unvaccinated, or the vaccinated who are not happy that their unvaccinated colleagues are at home on full pay?  There are also GDPR considerations to factor it.

All in all, making changes might not be worth the risk, especially if all isolation rules are removed in the spring/summer as is rumoured!

Do you get tied up in knots when it comes to making HR/People policy decisions? Worried that you don’t know enough about employment law? Or simply don’t have the time to deal with these sorts of issues? Then why not give us a call to discuss your HR headaches and see if we can ease the pain. You can book your FREE 30 minute call with us here;