Kroger Ends Paid Sick Leave For Unvaxxed Employees Who Get COVID

Brittany M. Hughes | December 15, 2021
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Kroger is ending its paid sick leave time for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID beginning on January 1, per an announcement made by the company this week.

The grocery story chain, which also owns Harris Teeter, also says they’ll require unvaccinated salaried (and non-union) employees to pay a $50 monthly health insurance surcharge starting in 2022.

Fully vaccinated workers, however, won't be charged the extra fee and will still be given paid time off if they contract COVID as a breakthrough case. It’s not clear how many of the company’s 465,000 workers haven’t yet gotten the shot.

A Kroger spokesperson said the changes are meant “to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination,” per CNBC.

Except that it’s not clear that the new policy will encourage safe behaviors at all – in fact, such a crackdown may wind up resulting in exactly the opposite. While COVID vaccines have shown to reduce the likelihood of serious illness and hospitalization in infected persons, they’ve shown to be far less effective in preventing infection and transmission of COVID than previously believed, meaning that vaccinated people can still catch and spread the disease – and at fairly high rates.

And while a policy banning unvaxxed employees from taking paid time off if they do catch COVID might encourage a few vaccine-hesitant folks to get the jab, it’s far more likely that it will simply result in infected people coming to work while ill if they can’t afford to take unpaid sick leave, making it more likely that the virus would spread among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

And with grocery store prices already hitting record-highs, it’s unlikely that a policy that results in some workers quitting and others coming into work sick with a contagious virus will lead to anything good.

But sure, Kroger. You do you.

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