Supermarket juggernaut Kroger Co. is removing certain coronavirus benefits for unvaccinated employees to prompt them into receiving vaccinations, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
Last week, the company informed employees via memo that it will be eliminating two weeks of paid emergency leave for employees who are not inoculated.
Kroger put in place emergency paid leave for employees sick with coronavirus early in 2020, and “All employees were eligible to receive their standard pay for up to 14 days,” according to the Associated Press (AP).
Unvaccinated employees who contract the virus can use earned time off or apply for unpaid leave if they contract the coronavirus, but no longer qualify for the “special” leave, which only applies to fully vaccinated workers, according to the AP.
Additionally, Kroger will impose a $50 monthly fee on company health plans for unvaccinated non-union employees, the Wall Street Journal reports. Both changes will take effect on January 1.
The monthly surcharge will apply to managers and other salaried employees but will not affect hourly workers or the 66 percent of Kroger employees belonging to labor unions, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Kroger follows the lead of other major companies, including Delta Airlines, which imposed a $200 monthly charge to unvaccinated employees’ company health plans in August. “The carrier said it saw early signs of success, with the number of employees receiving their first Covid-19 shot tripling from the typical daily rate,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Supermarkets rely on hundreds of thousands of front-line workers, but most haven’t enforced a vaccine or test mandate or changed their policies. Industry executives have said they are hesitant about making big changes, fearing workers may quit if required to get vaccinated or tested weekly. They have also said costs continue to rise for labor and transportation.
A Kroger spokeswoman said the company is modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors as it prepares to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, and that the changes are designed to create a healthier workplace and workforce. She said the company considered feedback from employees and customers to guide its policies, and that Kroger will continue to encourage sick employees to stay home and seek the support of a physician if they contract the coronavirus. Unvaccinated employees can take paid time off or apply for unpaid leave, she said. Kroger has been motivating staffers to get vaccinated with a $100 payment.
The move comes as the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employees at private companies remains suspended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) after “the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a motion to stay its COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS),” Breitbart News reported.
Press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the Biden White House does not have a hand in Kroger’s policy.
“We know different private sector companies and entities are going to take different steps to incentivize people to get vaccinated, to keep their employees safe and their work force safe,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday, per the AP. “It’s not a policy we’re putting out there from the federal government.”