News & Updates


Liam A Entwistle

Published byLiam A Entwistle

18th January 2022


Liam Entwistle, employment law specialist and chairman at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP, has experienced an influx of enquiries from employers looking for something similar to IKEA’s amended sick pay policy for unvaccinated members of staff, and believes the Swedish homeware giant may have kickstarted a trend.

Ikea introduced a policy which means employees who have chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will receive basic Statutory Sick Pay if isolating, rather than enhanced company sick pay.

Entwistle said while the new IKEA’s position has attracted controversy, the move taken by the company looks perfectly legal on the face of it, as long as any other unlawful discrimination is avoided.

He said: “We have received numerous enquiries around the legalities of implementing this kind of measure, how to implement it, and also questions around related employment issues such as the legalities of mandatory testing.

“In IKEA’s case, it seems that employees who have chosen to remain unvaccinated will receive Statutory Sick Pay from the first day of their isolation period, as required, whereas those who are vaccinated or who have a ‘medical or religious’ exemption, will continue to receive company sick pay. This seems to be IKEA’s way of saying it will support employees, but only up to a certain point, if they have refused vaccination.

“Retailer Next has reportedly adopted a similar stance and we are not surprised to see Scottish businesses are exploring their options and the legalities of any such contract changes. While companies may not face legal challenges, there is potential for them to upset employees therefore, they need to consider the pros and cons of both options.”

Employers have also queried rules around wages of staff who are isolating because they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.

Entwistle continued: “The Scottish Government stated no one should be penalised for following health guidance but paying company sick pay to everyone who is isolating can put a huge stress on employer’s resources - some are finding themselves in a position where a huge per cent of their workforce is isolating.

“It is easy to see why employers have so many questions given the rapidly changing rules around isolation periods and close contacts. My advice to any employer who is considering their options is to seek expert guidance in order to remain on the right side of the law.”

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