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Should unvaccinated staff receive differential treatment?

11 Jan 2022

It has been widely reported that Ikea has taken the decision to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate because they have been identified as a ‘close contact’. However, Ikea has confirmed that there may be exceptions to this and that staff will still be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay.

As a result of staff shortages, many employers are currently considering whether they should treat vaccinated and unvaccinated staff differently in an attempt to encourage vaccination. However the potential risks of such a decision should be carefully considered before such a change is implemented.

Consideration should first of all be given to the contract of employment and the relevant sick pay policy, as this will determine the payment of any contractual sick pay. Furthermore, although preferential treatment of vaccinated employees may encourage other employees to get vaccinated, it may also mean that some employees are less likely to tell their employer if they do have symptoms or test positive.

Unvaccinated employees

In addition, some unvaccinated employees will have a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (such as disability, religion or belief) which could result in a discrimination claim if they receive less favourable treatment from their employer. Therefore, the reasons why an employee has chosen not to be vaccinated would need to be considered in each case to assess the risk of a discrimination claim. This of course fits with Ikea’s announcement that exceptions will be considered where there are ‘mitigating circumstances’.

Should you require any advice or support with the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team.