It was reported last week that the super market chain Morrison’s are planning to cut sick pay benefits for non-vaccinated workers. Chief executive David Potts blamed ‘biblical costs of managing Covid’ as the reason for the decision, after claiming to have helped workers stay safe during the pandemic.
This seems like a bold move on Morrison’s part, and not an easy policy to introduce. One of the initial thoughts on every reader’s mind must be ‘can Morrison’s legally do this?’. Well, possibly, but it is fraught with pitfalls for the supermarket chain, and they will need to jump through some hoops. The business will also need to have a number of exemptions from the policy for it to be lawful.
The key problem Morrison’s will face are:
- Potential indirect discrimination, i.e., by saying that no employee will get company sick pay if they are sick with COVID and are not vaccinated, this disadvantages certain employees with protected characteristics.
A good example of this is employees with health conditions who have been advised against getting the vaccine. To not pay these employees company sick pay would likely be disability discrimination. There would also be good arguments for discrimination on the grounds of religion/belief, race, maternity and even sex discrimination.
- Potential breach of human rights
- Consultation may be needed with unions and/or employee representatives to be able to legally introduce the change to the sick pay policy.
- There are also practical issues of implementing this including obtaining proof of vaccination and the data protection issues that this raises.
There is little doubt that Morrison’s will have a team of lawyers and will understand the risks of introducing such a policy. However, any business looking to make drastic changes to their company policies due to Covid-19, or otherwise, should certainly seek professional advice first to protect their business.
If you are searching for further information on making changes to employees contracts of employment can read our Employers’ guide: changing terms and conditions of employment.