Unvaccinated employees and pay

Concerned about reducing sick pay for the unvaccinated employees? Employers across the UK are experiencing problems with staffing levels due to self-isolation absences. Many are having to take action to mitigate the impact this is having on their business including introducing measures to discourage the absences in the first place. Employers are under no obligation to maintain full pay for periods of self-isolation (unless contracts provide this); they only have to meet SSP requirements for eligible employees. Reducing sick pay may make employees consider their activities outside of the workplace, including going to large events, night clubs, sporting events etc. Or perhaps not adhering to mask wearing and social distancing guidance in private or public spaces. This in turn will help reduce the likelihood of them being in close contact with a Covid-positive person, so told to isolate.

Reducing sick pay for the unvaccinated
COVID-19 vaccine – Reducing sick pay for the unvaccinated

That said, businesses should be careful that introducing these rules don’t treat employees unfavourably, particularly those with underlying health issues. Employees who are medically exempt from getting the Covid jab, or those with reasonable other grounds for not being vaccinated (for example; staff who are pregnant or have concerns about getting the vaccine due to reasons relating to their religion or race), may raise claims of discrimination if they are put at a detriment as a result of following Government isolation guidance. A detriment in this situation includes loss of pay. Organisations who wish to adopt this approach, must first consider the wider impact this may have on their employees and put in place adjustments where needed, to avoid any potential risk of claims.

Similarly, where full pay has been given for periods of isolation over the past 18 months-2 years, this may become an implied contractual term even though it’s not expressly written into employment contracts. Therefore, employers must undertake the same consultation processes they are obliged to do for any changes to terms and conditions. This includes the requirement to complete collective consultation if the changes impact 20 or more employees. Failure to do so can lead to lengthy and costly claims of unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, breach of contract and protective awards, in addition to the aforementioned risks of discrimination claims.

The Government has recognised the widespread difficulties associated with staff shortages due to the increase in the numbers of people having to isolate as Omicron cases rose. As a result, from Monday 17 January 2022, the self-isolation period for people who test Covid-positive is being further reduced to 5 full days. These changes applies in England only; it remains to be seen whether the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales will announce similar measures.

To be eligible for early release from isolation, individuals must complete a lateral flow test on day 5 and the start of day 6, with 24 hours between each test. As long as both tests are negative, isolation can end. However, if either of the test are positive, it’s possible to complete a lateral flow test every 24 hours until it returns two consecutive negative results.

Still concerned about reducing sick pay for the unvaccinated employees, or variations / options there of? Contact us for further details.

Making the Right HR Decisions = A Happy and productive workforce.

Paul Deaves. Assoc. CIPD

Managing Director, The Hive Collaborative.

HR @ The Hive Collaborative.

Tel: 01352 781965 | Email: hello@hivecollaborative.co.uk

A member of the Professional Body for HR and People Development.

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