Morrisons, the UK’s fourth largest supermarket, is set to cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers who need to self-isolate.

The company has justified the decision by saying that the intention is to encourage vaccine uptake, but also to mitigate the “biblical costs” of the pandemic, after a recent drop in profits.

The chief executive David Potts explained that a shortage of HGV drivers, supply chain disruption, and the growing wholesale prices of commodities has led to the company needing to take decisive action.

Whilst the cut will not apply to those who have not been given the chance to get two vaccine doses or those who have had Covid-19 symptoms, lawyers and union chiefs have warned that the supermarket risks legal action.

Some have warned that there is a risk that employees will not isolate if they display symptoms due to a lack of sick pay, and they also raised concerns that the supermarket could face discrimination claims.

Rob Miguel, Unite national health and safety adviser, said:

Unite absolutely encourages people who are able to get vaccinated, but we also strongly believe the process should be voluntary as there are many people unable to be vaccinated for legitimate reasons.

Such strong-arm tactics will result in issues around equalities, human rights and ethical breaches.

In a financial update to the City on Thursday, Morrisons stated they were facing increased costs outside of their control, predicting rising prices for shoppers in the coming months.

As a direct result of Covid-19 costs, profits were held back by £41 million, and the company earned £80 million less as a result of reduced demand for cafes, fuel, and food-to-go.

The company’s pretax profit fell by more than a third to £105 million in the six months to 1 August.

A Morrisons spokesperson said:

From 1 October, following UK government confirmation that all adults have had the opportunity to get double vaccinated, we will no longer be paying full sick pay for pinged colleagues who have chosen not to be vaccinated.