Retail chain Kroger announced Tuesday that it will remove paid leaves for unvaccinated employees who get COVID-19. It will also require these workers to pay a monthly health insurance surcharge beginning next year.
Kroger Targets Unvaccinated Employees
Kroger, one of the country’s largest employers with nearly half a million workers, is taking a stand against unvaccinated employees.
America’s largest supermarket chain issued a company-wide memo announcing the policies for unvaccinated workers starting January 1.
According to a company spokesperson, the new guidelines aim to encourage employees to finally get their COVID vaccine shots.
The company also added that it will continue issuing $100 incentives for all workers once they become fully vaccinated.
“As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination,” Kroger said in a statement.
Beginning next year, all unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s health insurance plan will need to pay a surcharge.
All non-union and salaried employees will need to fork over the $50 fee to cover their potential COVID health costs.
In contrast, fully vaccinated workers will remain eligible for paid leaves even if they get COVID. They also won’t require paying extra surcharges for their health insurance.
Omicron Variant Keeping Employers Wary
Kroger’s announcement comes as many employers continue to hedge plans on how to conduct daily operations. The appearance of the Omicron variant pushed many businesses to reconsider plans to make employees return to the office.
In fact, states like New York and California reinstated mask mandates regardless of vaccine status.
This forced some retailers to bring back signs on entrances saying customers need to wear masks when inside store premises.
Meanwhile, companies such as Google reconsidered the planned return to the office by January 0f 2022.
Companies Doing Everything Short of Forcing Employees To Vaccinate
Outside of Kroger, other companies also tightened their COVID-19 policies for employees who have yet to get vaccines. For example, unvaccinated employees at Delta Air Lines must pay a $200 monthly surcharge for health insurance.
Other companies tried less-punitive ways of convincing workers to get the vaccines. This includes company-wide educational campaigns.
In addition, some offered incentive programs for the fully vaccinated, including providing cash rewards. However, most have yet to see these programs pay off.
Wade Symons, regulatory resources group leader at Mercer, thinks that companies are now going for the areas that hurt workers most. “I think employers sort of see hitting employees in the wallet as a true motivator that … should increase vaccination levels.”
Unvaccinated Employees Can Cost Employers More
Symons also added that unvaccinated employees can potentially cost the employer more in health insurance costs.
He said that a self-insured employer that pays the claims for the company’s health insurance is rethinking the presence of unvaccinated workers in the mix.
This situation presents “the potential, not only to get COVID-19 themselves but also potentially to affect others,” he said. As a result, many CEOs want the unvaccinated to “pay more to try to offset some of those costs.”
Watch the WTHR news video reporting that Kroger takes away benefits for unvaccinated employees:
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