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In an attempt to force more of its workers to get the COVID vaccine, Kroger announced Tuesday that starting in 2022, the company will eliminate certain benefits offered to unvaccinated workers. The grocery store chain made clear that it will stop paying COVID-19 leave for unvaccinated workers who contract the virus and will start adding a $50 health insurance surcharge to non-union workers who refuse to get the vaccine.
“As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination,” a company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal.
The company noted that it would continue to “offer a $100 incentive to all employees who become fully vaccinated.”
Employees who are vaccinated will still be eligible for COVID leave if they come down with a breakthrough case.
NEW: Kroger says COVID-19 paid leave will no longer be available to unvaccinated employees who contract the virus, according to a company spokesperson.
— Ana Cabrera (@AnaCabrera) December 14, 2021
Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institute told the WSJ that this is a risky move by the grocer because it encourages unvaccinated workers who can’t afford to be off without pay to continue coming to work while infected.
While Kroger unvaccinated workers will no longer be paid for COVID sick leave, the surcharge part of the Kroger changes joins a growing list of companies who are forcing their unvaccinated workers to pay up.
Over the summer, Delta told unvaccinated workers they’d pay $200 more in insurance. JPMorgan Chase did the same as did Utah grocer Harmons. Some employers are calling the new premiums fees for a “wellness program” that applies to unvaccinated workers, NPR reports.
“Most employers are doing this to try to have a healthier and more productive workforce… and to spend less on overall health care costs,” Sabrina Corlette, founder and co-director of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, told NPR.
Meanwhile, at Kroger, if you’re unvaccinated and get sick from a vaccinated worker, you’ll now be forced to take paid leave if you want to be paid. Vaccinated workers who get sick will be eligible for up to two weeks of paid time off without having to touch their regular sick time.