Cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees – what do you think?

I’ve been really concerned this week that some major employers are cutting sick pay for unvaccinated employees to the statutory minimum. ITV reports how companies like Next, Morrisons and Ikea are only going to pay employees who have to self-isolate Statutory Sick Pay of only £96.35 per week, whereas those who have been vaccinated will get their usual pay. And the majority of affected employees will be the lowest paid.

In England, if you are a close contact of someone with Covid, you don’t have to self isolate if you are fully vaccinated. You just need to take daily lateral flow tests. However, if you have not been vaccinated and there are no medical reasons why you can’t be, you have to isolate for ten days. If you do not do so, you could be fined £1000. The rules are set out here.

I don’t agree with employers making these sorts of value judgements about an employee’s liability for their own condition. That is a rabbit hole we really do not want to go down because it could end up in some really nasty places. Broken your leg while hillwalking? Imagine your employer telling you you could have avoided that and they are only going to pay you SSP.

I also don’t think that it is productive in any way to essentially try to starve people into submission, especially when that is not likely to work. A BMJ article suggests that coercion might just exacerbate existing divisions and mistrust without actually resulting in higher vaccination levels.

I could not be any more pro-vaccine, and, yes, I think that if you don’t get vaccinated then you are being really selfish, unless there is a medical reason why you can’t. The vaccine clearly saves lives. This time last year we had 37,715 patients in hospital with Covid, 3,854 requiring ventilators.  1295 people died with Covid on 16 January 2021. Today, we have 19729 in hospital and 777 requiring ventilators. 270 people died on 14th, the last day for which we have figures. While today’s numbers are still high enough, and show that this virus is still very nasty, you can see the difference vaccines make.

But there is another reason, a more self-interested one, that I don’t want people’s sick pay restricted. It’s hardly going to encourage unvaccinated people to stick by the rules and self isolate. That makes it more likely that they will go to work, spread the virus and put the rest of us at risk. And that makes it less likely that I will want to go anywhere near those businesses.

What do you think?


* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings