Kroger, the nation’s largest traditional grocery store chain, announced Tuesday that it will discontinue special paid Covid-19 leave for unvaccinated employees and will charge some of them $50 per month if they remain unprotected.
The changes in policy for the Cincinnati-based company, which has stores in 35 states, were first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Kroger jobs said unvaccinated workers who get Covid-19 would no longer be eligible for special paid leave that it put in place last year. The paid leave will still be offered to vaccinated workers who get breakthrough cases.
Salaried employees who are not vaccinated and are enrolled in a company health care jobs plan will be charged a $50 “monthly health insurance surcharge” beginning January 1.
“We created and amended several workplace policies at the onset of the pandemic to support our associates during immense uncertainty,” Kroger said in a statement. “The administration of the vaccine to our associates has been an integral part of our efforts and continues to be a focus.”
The company has not disclosed how many of its employees are fully vaccinated, and it will not do so on Tuesday. Kroger employs nearly 500,000 people across its brands, including Ralphs, King Soopers, and Fred Meyer. Businesses are beginning to recover from the severe disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which are still being felt. The United States recently passed 800,000 deaths from the disease, and increases in case numbers are still being driven by the coronavirus’s delta variant, even as a new variant, omicron, is increasingly being discovered.
Companies have attempted to persuade their employees to get vaccinated. Some employers have mandated that certain employees be vaccinated, while others have stated that those who have not been vaccinated are not permitted to return to work. Delta Air Lines announced in August that health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees would rise by $200 per month. CEO Ed Bastian cited the high cost of covering workers who become ill and are hospitalized.
Unvaccinated workers would have to pay $15 co-pays for on-site testing or pay for their own tests, according to MGM Resorts International, which is known for its Las Vegas casinos and hotels jobs such as the Bellagio and the MGM Grand.
A number of companies, including Kroger, have also begun to reward employees for getting vaccinated. According to a spokesperson, the company had approximately 465,000 employees at the end of last year. The issue of government-mandated vaccinations has been contentious.
The courts have blocked some of President Joe Biden’s vaccination rules. This month, a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction against a vaccination requirement for federal contractors.
When asked about it on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “Kroger is acting on its own as a business.” The change is “not a policy that the federal government is putting out there,” she said. Some states require vaccinations for certain workers, such as health care workers. The Supreme Court declined Monday to stay New York’s vaccination mandate for health-care workers while legal challenges are resolved.
The court has also turned down other challenges to vaccination mandates from students at Indiana University, teachers in New York and health care workers in Maine and Massachusetts. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a vaccination mandate for private-sector workers last week.
Source: NBC News