Ikea has joined Morrissons and Wessex Water by cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff who test positive for Covid or have to isolate because of exposure to the virus.

The furniture and home goods store, which has around 10,000 UK workers, said it understood the subject was ‘emotive’ and that each circumstance “will be considered on a case-by-case basis.”

IKEA clarified its policy in a statement: “Fully vaccinated co-workers or those that are unvaccinated owing to mitigating circumstances which, for example, could include pregnancy or other medical grounds, will receive full pay.

“Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances that test positive with Covid will be paid full company sick pay in line with our company absence policy. 

“Unvaccinated co-workers without mitigating circumstances who have been identified as close contacts of a positive case will be paid Statutory Sick Pay.”

Wessex Water

Wessex Water, meanwhile, said it needed to take these steps, as it provided essential services, especially as its Covid-related ‘absences had doubled in the last week. 

A Wessex Water spokesperson said: “The vast majority of our workforce has been vaccinated and it’s important as a company providing essential services with key-worker employees [that] the remainder get vaccinated to protect themselves, customers and their colleagues.”

Both IKEA and Wessex Water offer staff time during work to get vaccinated and Wessex Water stressed that it had given staff full pay during the furlough period, including those who had to isolate due to Covid. The news was first reported in the Mail on Sunday.

Legal implications

Philip Richardson, partner and head of employment law at Stephensons said there would be other companies who would have the same policies as firms are under increasing pressure. 

He said: “Ikea’s decision highlights a shift in the way in which organisations are now approaching the pandemic, particularly those which are service led and reliant on staff being in stores, offices or in people’s homes. Many have reached a point of intense pressure when it comes to staffing and costs and it is highly likely that other firms will follow suit over the coming weeks as they try and navigate this surge in cases.”  

Meanwhile, Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula UK said while the moves might make employees more careful with their actions, employers needed to be careful: 

“IKEA, and all other business who wish to adopt a similar approach, must first consider the wider impact this may have on staff and put in place adjustments where needed, to avoid any potential risk of claims.”

She added: “Employees who are medically exempt from getting the Covid jab, or those with reasonable other grounds for not being vaccinated (e.g., staff who are pregnant or have concerns about getting it due to reasons relating to their race or religion), may raise claims of discrimination if they are put at a detriment because of following Government isolation guidance. A detriment in this situation includes loss of pay.

Other companies that have cut sick pay

Last October (2021), Morrisons cut its sick pay terms. It said as all UK adults had been given the opportunity to be double-jabbed, it would not be paying full sick pay for those who had to isolate, after choosing not to be vaccinated.

In America, where approximately 15 percent of the adult population remains unvaccinated, a number of companies are also penalising unvaccinated workers. This is by either separating them from vaccinated colleagues or even letting them go. The list includes most of the large airlines and any Pentagon workers, which includes the Army and Navy.