Kroger Adds Monthly Surcharge for Unvaccinated Workers, Cuts Their COVID-19 Sick Leave
In an effort to get more of its workers vaccinated against COVID-19, Kroger will eliminate paid pandemic-related leave and charge $50 per month to employees that haven't gotten shots. Kroger stopped short of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for workers, but said it's "modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination." Company officials added the grocer will also continue to offer a one-time $100 bonus to workers that get fully vaccinated. The $50 surcharge goes into effect Jan. 1 and applies to salaried associates enrolled in a company health plan. The extra expense would cost an employee $600 per year.
Total Retail's Take: As the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads across the country, retailers such as Kroger are taking additional steps to protect their employees and customers, and their businesses as well. While not requiring that its employees get COVID vaccinations, Kroger is putting significant penalties into place for those employees that choose not to get vaccinated. Apparently this a risk that the grocer is willing to take. Given the tight labor market, such a hard-line stance could result in some employees leaving, perhaps even for competitive retail organizations that don't require vaccination or have penalties in place for not getting vaccinated. The other way to look at this move by Kroger is that it will further incentivize its existing workforce to get vaccinated if they haven't already done so, helping to mitigate the spread of the virus. The latter is what Kroger execs are banking on.
Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.