Next has become one of the first large UK retailers to cut sick pay for its unvaccinated staff who have to isolate after coming into contact with someone with Covid.
However, staff who have not been jabbed will still receive sick pay if they test positive for the virus.
People in the UK who are not vaccinated and who are a close contact of someone who has tested positive are required to self-isolate for 10 days. This requirement does not apply for people who are fully vaccinated.
Next told the BBC, which first reported the move, that it was an “emotive topic” but it had to balance the needs of staff and shareholders.
The fashion and homeware retailer, which employs more than 37,000 people in the UK, has been grappling with higher levels of staff absence as a result of the spread of the Omicron variant.
Next’s change to its sick pay policy is understood to have been made recently, and comes days after a similar move by Ikea, which employs 10,000 people in the UK.
Unvaccinated workers at Next and Ikea will only be eligible for statutory sick pay – which is currently set at £96.35 a week – during their 10 days of isolation, unless there are mitigating circumstances. This compares with weekly pay of more than £400 before tax for an average store worker at Ikea.
Morrisons supermarket announced in September that it was cutting sick pay during self-isolation for its unvaccinated workers, as part of a move to cut its pandemic-related costs.
Meanwhile the UK’s largest grocer, Tesco, will limit the amount of paid sick leave that unvaccinated staff are able to take while self-isolating.
Unjabbed Tesco employees who do not test positive for Covid but have to self-isolate will not receive lower pay, but will use up some of their company sick pay entitlement, as they would for other illnesses. This is not the case for any Tesco staff who test positive for Covid.
Next’s chief executive, Simon Wolfson, said Omicron had not impacted the retailer’s sales but it had led to rising staff absences in its shops and warehouses as people had to self-isolate, although it had not forced the company to close any of its stores.
“Absenteeism is definitely a factor at the moment and sickness levels are higher than we would normally expect at this time of the year,” Lord Wolfson told Bloomberg.