The fashion retailer Next is the latest company to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff as Sajid Javid said those who have not had jabs damaged the NHS.
The health secretary said that the unvaccinated were making it harder for everyone else to get treated and that “people who have chosen not to get vaccinated should understand the consequences of their decision for the rest of society”.
Javid said that anyone still unvaccinated 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 per cent of Covid patients in intensive care had not been jabbed. “If those people had got vaccinated, they not only would have been safer, but it would have meant that 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 had those that were unvaccinated, or decided not to take a booster shot, actually bothered to do so.”
He added that Britain was living with minimal restrictions because so many people had been vaccinated and the unvaccinated were gaining the benefit.
“Let us be clear, the reason that 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 we have been able to start the year with much greater freedom than last year, with children back at school, shops opening their doors and this chamber bustling with activity, is that so many people have made the positive choice to be vaccinated”.
Next has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who have to isolate after much higher than expected absence levels. It said the subject was “highly emotive but we have to balance the needs of the business with those of workers and shareholders”.
Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, announced on Monday that it would be cutting sick pay for employees who were isolating but had not been vaccinated.
Unvaccinated people who have come into contact with positive Covid cases are still required to isolate for ten days from the date of exposure to the virus, with only fully vaccinated contacts allowed to continue as normal.
Next’s stance means that affected workers could receive as little as the minimum statutory sick pay of £96.35 a week. The company pays its shop sales staff between £6.55 and £9.21 an hour, while warehouse workers get between £9.30 and £11.26.
Ministers are taking a harder line on the unvaccinated as they attempt to encourage people to persuade friends and relatives of the need to get the jab. Despite making vaccination a must for NHS staff, Javid ruled out further compulsion, saying it would be “unethical”.