Kroger said Tuesday that it will take away paid leave for unvaccinated employees who get Covid-19 and require some of them to pay a monthly health insurance surcharge starting next year.
The country’s largest supermarket operator sent a companywide memo announcing the changes, which take effect Jan. 1. A company spokeswoman said the new policies are intended to encourage staff to get the Covid vaccines, adding it will continue to offer a $100 incentive to all employees who become fully vaccinated.
“As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination,” she said in a statement.
Starting next year, salaried, nonunion employees who are unvaccinated and enrolled in the company’s health insurance plan must pay a monthly $50 surcharge, the company spokeswoman said. But employees who are fully vaccinated are eligible for paid Covid leave, if they get a breakthrough case.
The Kroger news was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
The announcement comes as the spread of the omicron variant creates new uncertainty about how businesses should operate and when corporate employees will return to the office. New York and California have reinstated mask mandates, regardless of vaccination status. That’s led to retailers posting entrance signs reminiscent of the earlier months of the pandemic, reminding customers they must put on masks before stepping inside. Some companies, including Google, have pushed back plans to require employees to return to the office in January.
Kroger is one of the country’s biggest employers with about 465,000 workers as of Jan. 31, according to a regulatory filing.
Other companies have also tightened rules around Covid vaccinations or added penalties for employees who do not get them. Starting in November, unvaccinated Delta Air Lines employees must pay a $200 monthly surcharge for health insurance.