Morrisons’ decision to slash sick pay for unvaccinated staff who are pinged defies reason and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
The latest evidence from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the UK government and Oxford University confirms anecdotal experience double-vaccinated people are still contracting Covid and transmitting it to others, even if at a lower rate.
This realisation was surely key to Boris Johnson’s decision not to introduce vaccine passports. Any public health measure based on the assumption jabs are a guarantee against infection is misguided.
Call me cynical, but Morrisons’ mandate looks less like a thoughtful contribution to disease avoidance than a panicky attempt to bolster profits by cutting wage costs.
But supposing I’m wrong, and it is genuinely an altruistic attempt to protect the community. I still think that Morrisons has crossed a red line here, by presuming that it has a right to know an employee’s vaccine status, and then discriminate on that basis.
An employee’s current health status reflects a lifetime of personal choices and lifestyle decisions.
Applying the same rationale, why not slash sick pay for the checkout operator hospitalised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, largely because he or she is a heavy smoker? Or for the type two diabetic shelf-stacker signed off with gout, a condition they might have prevented if they had been in better shape?
I was glad to see Unite reminding Morrisons vaccination should be a voluntary choice. “Such strong-arm tactics will result in issues around equalities, human rights and ethical breaches,” it warns.
Unite pointed out many people can’t be jabbed for medical reasons. In this scenario, Morrisons says that it will give unvaccinated staff full sick pay.
But lawyers say the retailer could still face discrimination claims from people who are medically able to get the vaccine but choose not to.
I can’t help thinking the recently acquired #BoycottMorrisons hashtag is not what this retailer needs right now. Refocusing on being a grocer and retreating from the health arena might generate a more positive one.
This article originally said Morrisons would not give sick pay to unvaccinated staff with Covid symptoms. It has now been updated to reflect that staff in this situation will receive full sick pay.