US retail chain cancels health benefits for unvaccinated employees
American grocery chain Kroger will remove paid health benefits and charge a health insurance surcharge next year to employees who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 in an effort to convince people to get the shots.
From January 1, unvaccinated Kroger employees will no longer be eligible for two weeks of emergency paid leave if they are infected with Covid-19, while store managers and other employees who are unvaccinated and not part of a union will have to pay an extra $50 a month for company health insurance.
The new crackdown on unvaccinated employees was announced in a company memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which also reported that Kroger has been offering $100 payments to staff if they get vaccinated.
A spokesperson for the company told the newspaper that unvaccinated employees can use their earned paid time off or apply for unpaid leave if they contract Covid-19, however critics questioned whether the rules would encourage unvaccinated, Covid-19 positive employees to go into work and spread the virus instead.
A truly bizzare move that puts costumers at risk by encouraging workers to come in with COVID. If you really want to punish your unvaxxed employee just fire them or reduce their wages. This is the worst of all possible ideas. https://t.co/CBdBW5N8OK— Jon Walker (@JonWalkerDC) December 14, 2021
I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, you want to encourage vaccination. But the flip side is you'll have unvaccinated workers coming to work in grocery stores when they're sick because they can't afford to take an unpaid day off. https://t.co/6VViEZIjXL— Markian Hawryluk (@MarkianHawryluk) December 14, 2021
“So more infected people will show up for work because they can't afford to take time off to recover. Great,” one commenter tweeted. Some even called for a boycott of the company.
“If you want to treat your staff like second class citizens b/c they make a personal choice, you will no longer earn my business. I will go out of my way to no longer shop w/ you,” another disgruntled commenter tweeted.
Kroger is not the first US company to charge unvaccinated employees extra for health insurance. Delta Air Lines announced in August that unvaccinated staff would be charged $200 extra per month “to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”