Fashion retailer Next cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff

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Fashion retailer Next is the latest company to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff, as Sajid Javid said those who have not been vaccinated harmed the NHS.

The health secretary said the unvaccinated were making it difficult for everyone else to get treatment and that “people who have chosen not to be vaccinated must understand the consequences of their decision for the rest of society.”

Javid said that anyone who was not yet vaccinated had “chosen not to do that. And that has consequences. It doesn’t just have consequences for them, it has consequences for all of us.”

Doctors had told him that 70 percent of covid patients in intensive care had not been needled. “If those people had been vaccinated, not only would they have been safer, but it would have meant that space in hospitals could have been used for others,” he told MPs.

Javid said: “If you look at the 17,000 Covid-positive patients in our hospitals, this is something that could have been prevented if those who weren’t vaccinated, or chose not to get a booster shot, had really bothered to do so.”

He added that Britain was living with minimal restrictions because so many people had been vaccinated and the unvaccinated were benefiting.

“Let’s be clear, the reason why those people [who have not been vaccinated] have also been able to enjoy the freedoms that they have today is because they are standing on the shoulders of those who have come forward.

Javid reiterated that “the reason why we have been able to start the year with much more freedom than last year, with the children back in school, the stores opening their doors and this chamber full of activity, is that many people have taken the positive decision to be vaccinated”.

Next has reduced sick pay for unvaccinated staff who have to self-isolate after much higher-than-expected levels of absence. He said the topic was “very emotional, but we have to balance the needs of the company with those of the workers and shareholders.”

Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, announced on Monday that it would reduce sick pay for employees who were self-isolating but had not been vaccinated.

Unvaccinated people who have come into contact with positive Covid cases must still isolate themselves for ten days from the date of exposure to the virus, and only fully vaccinated contacts can continue as normal.

Next’s position means affected workers could receive as little as the statutory minimum sick pay of £96.35 a week. The company pays its store sales staff between £6.55 and £9.21 per hour, while warehouse workers get between £9.30 and £11.26.

Ministers are taking a tougher line on the unvaccinated as they try to encourage people to persuade friends and family of the need to get the vaccine. Despite making vaccination compulsory for NHS staff, Javid ruled out further compulsion, saying it would be “unethical”.

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