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Ikea assembles its alternative to ‘no jab, no job’

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

At Ikea, if/when unvaccinated staff fall ill with coronavirus, they will only be paid statutory sick pay which currently stands at £96.35 per week during the isolation period.

This figure is about 25% of the normal £400 per week before tax for shop floor workers, but is this a necessary step or an invasion on personal freedoms?

Instead of implementing a “no jab, no job” policy which comes with its own risks as explored in our earlier article (HERE), the well-known furniture retailer has adopted its own approach.

Some businesses have chosen to encourage their workforce to be vaccinated by using incentives such as free time off during working hours. However, Ikea has joined forces with the likes of supermarket chain Morrison’s and utility provider Wessex Water by imposing financial losses on those individuals who refuse to be vaccinated. Although it is a different approach, it is one that’s likely to ripple the same divisive effects of other vaccination policies.

A spokesperson for Ikea confirmed that managers would be given discretion to consider mitigating circumstances amongst its 10,000 staff but it is not known what these could be.

What does this mean for your business?

As tempting as this approach may be at a time when businesses are contending with high absence levels, a reduction in sick pay will be classed as a variation to the employment contract which requires mutual agreement (and sometimes, a period of consultation if it cannot be agreed).

In addition to the administrative side of things, the discrimination risk is high.

Operating a policy that is solely dependent on an individual’s decision on whether to be vaccinated can give rise to discrimination claims because each person may have their own reasons for not having the procedure. This could be on the grounds of their race, religion, other beliefs or any protected characteristic set out in the Equality Act 2010.

Direct discrimination claims can succeed with an individual is treated less favourably than someone who does not share their protected characteristic. For example, an employee’s refusal to be vaccinated because of religious beliefs which means they subsequently lose their contractual sick pay that another colleague (who doesn’t have the same religious beliefs) is paid: this is where the liability lies!

If you are considering implementing a policy that provides different entitlements depending on an employee’s vaccination status, seek specialist legal advice on your circumstances. The effects can be far-reaching and expensive once the horse has bolted.