Home » Knowledge Hub » » Ikea ‘no vax’ sick pay policy could be ‘divisive’ – CIPD

Ikea ‘no vax’ sick pay policy could be ‘divisive’ – CIPD

11 January 2022

Unvaccinated Ikea staff will receive cut in sick pay

Questions have been raised about Ikea’s decision to cut sick pay for employees who have not been vaccinated against Covid and need to self isolate.

The retail giant joins Wessex Water in undertaking the move, acknowledging it was a “highly emotive topic” but claiming its policy had to evolve with “changing circumstances”.

Unvaccinated Ikea workers isolating due to Covid infection or contact with someone isolating, could now receive £96.35 a week – the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) minimum.

Average pay for Ikea shopfloor staff of £10.10 an hour outside London and £11.30 in the capital – the equivalent of £404 and £452 for an average working week.

The move comes as firms struggle with mass staff absences and rising costs. The Swedish retailer has 21 large stores and more than 10,000 staff in the UK, said ‘mitigating circumstances’ would be taken into consideration.


However, the move has raised significant questions for employers and HR professionals.

Rachel Suff, senior policy adviser for employment relations at the CIPD, said: “Employers should follow their usual sick pay policy for any employee who needs to self-isolate due to COVID-19.

“Different policies depending on an employee’s vaccination status could be quite complex and come with potential legal risks. They could also be divisive for the workforce.

“While cutting sick pay for certain workers could encourage some to get vaccinated, it could also mean that some are less likely to test themselves or self-isolate because they may not be able to afford to take time off if sick pay is limited to Statutory Sick Pay at around £96 per week.”


Last month the guidance on self-isolation for vaccinated people was relaxed. However, there was no change to the guidance for unvaccinated people who come into contact with positive cases, and who must still self-isolate for 10 full days after their date of exposure to the virus.

Ikea has been consistent in its encouragement of employees getting ‘jabbed’ along with other major firms such as Santander and Asda, which reportedly encouraged employees to receive a coronavirus jab, offering paid time off for vaccinations.

An IKEA spokesperson said: “Since the start of the pandemic, the health and safety of our co-workers has been our highest priority. Since then, IKEA has been working with a separate absence addendum, which is regularly reviewed in line with changes to Government guidance.

“Fully vaccinated co-workers or those that are unvaccinated owing to mitigating circumstances which, for example, could include pregnancy or other medical grounds, will receive full pay.”

The high profile of Ikea’s sick pay changes has prompted other businesses to review their own position.

Donald MacKinnon, group legal director at employment and HR specialists WorkNest, said they had seen a spike in interest.

He said: “For those employees who are already working from home, or whose jobs can be carried out away from their office, the decision may make little practical difference as they can continue to work while they are self-isolating.

“For employees, such as those in the retail sector who cannot work from home, Ikea’s stance will be controversial. Given the numbers of employers who are now contemplating following Ikea’s example, it would seem unlikely that the decision will provoke a backlash against the firm itself and may be seen by some consumers as common sense.

“While most employers cannot compel their staff to be vaccinated, it is a further encouragement to unvaccinated employees to get the vaccine to avoid the possibility of losing pay should they have to self-isolate.”

Complex issues

The move by Ikea and Wessex Water has also raised issues over worker’s personal privacy and civil liberties in general.

Silke Carlo, director of personal privacy campaigning charity Big Brother Watch, said: “All workers have the right to medical privacy and some people have complex, highly personal reasons for not being vaccinated which may include religious reasons, medical issues or pregnancy.

“Workers are under no obligation to divulge this information to their employer. There are long-standing legal protections for workers to maintain privacy over such matters, but IKEA seems to expect workers to divulge such situations in order for the company to preside on a ‘case by case’ basis over whether an individual deserves sick pay or not.

“It is quite possible that IKEA will find their approach tested in an employment tribunal.”

‘Skivers charter’

The profile of the story, which was first covered in the Mail on Sunday, has also raised the question about the level of statutory sick pay and potential need for review.

Rustom Tata, chairman and head of employment at law firm DMH Stallard, said: “What the debate is highlighting is the low level of SSP, which at less than £100 per week is barely 20% of the average salary in the UK.

“While some will say that SPP shouldn’t be a ‘skivers’ charter’ at a time of continuing public health crisis, it seems like this particular safety net isn’t fit for purpose.

“As the Institute for Employment Rights identified, nearly two thirds of employers think the current level is too low, but the government has so far resisted calls for a review of the SSP scheme.”




Latest Events

The Good That HR Does

At a time when HR is dealing with considerable stresses and strains, both in business and in the wider world, this webinar concentrates on the good HR delivers.
The good that HR does

Attract Top Talent: Master Social Media Recruitment for the Modern Workforce

The talent landscape is changing - Millennials and Gen Z now make up a growing majority. By 2025, 75% of the workforce globally will be Millennials. Are you planning your Employer Branding priorities with them in mind?
Master Social Media Recruitment for the Modern Workforce

Spring Networking Event

In the surroundings of the National Treasures: Constable in Bristol “Truth to Nature” exhibition, we’re hosting a free drinks and networking opportunity for you to meet and connect with business leaders and colleagues.
spring networking event hrw

May 2024 – Employee Benefits: How to Stop Wasting Money

Are you throwing money at employee benefits or a health and wellbeing programme that aren't appreciated?
employee benefits how to stop wasting money

June 2024 – All Promises? Is AI the Answer to your HR and L&D challenges?

The impact of AI on the workplace and working life in general has been the subject of much speculation, but what of the impact on HR itself? With the ability to offer key data for HR streamline work processes, AI could be the answer hard-pressed HR professionals are looking for.
all promises is ai the answer

May 2024 – Equality, Diversity, Inclusion: Put your money where your mouth is

Is EDI still a vital part of every business' agenda and what good does it deliver for HR?
equality, diversity, inclusion webinar

AI in the Workplace, The Potential, The Pitfalls and The Risks

In recent years, advancements in AI technologies have surged, permeating nearly every industry and facet of our lives. From automating routine tasks to augmenting human decision-making, AI holds the promise of revolutionising productivity, efficiency, and creativity in the workplace.
AI in the Workplace

Apr 2024 – Reward and Recognition – is that the best you can do?

What are the standard ways HR should be seeking to reward and recognise its employees - and what are the more innovative ways?

Mar 2024 – Leveraging Digital Learning Tools: Empowering HR Teams for Success

In today's fast-paced business landscape, the role of HR teams is evolving rapidly. To stay competitive and foster organisational growth, companies must leverage effective learning programs strategically.

Mar 2024 – The Efficiency Programme: How HR can maximise technology benefits

There are huge promises and potential for the use of AI and technology in HR and in this session we discuss the best way ahead for HR for technology and AI use.

Effective Resourcing Models & How We Guarantee the Integrity of Inclusive Recruitment Regardless of Approach

A opportunity to debate how can we adopt a cohesive inclusive approach that enhances the candidate experience without creating barriers between us and the talent essential to your organisational success.
15 may 2024 sanderson effective resourcing models

Feb 2024 – It’s All HR’s Fault

Despite being a trusted voice in the C-suite, HR is still viewed with distrust and outright disdain by many employees – the very people HR is there to support.
Its all HRs Fault On demand Webinar

Jan 2024 – Health and Wellbeing: Making it Personal

If you’re investing in a health and wellbeing strategy, you want to make sure it meets the needs of your workforce.

Dec 2023 – Year in Review 2023

In this webinar we brought back some of our previous 2023 webinar speakers who gave their view on the past 12 months.

Nov 2023 – Reward and Recognition for the International Workforce

In this webinar we explored the dispersed workplace and asked what it means to support employees all over the world.
Reward and Recognition for the International Workforce

Streamlining Year-End HR Operations

Providing seasonal support, ideas and inspiration, this webinar covered the challenges and opportunities presented to HR professionals at this time of year.
Streamlining year-end HR operations

The HR World Autumn/Winter Networking Drinks 2023

At this exclusive evening senior HR leaders were able to meet their contemporaries, talk to other HR thought leaders and experts and access The HR World’s unique network of game-changers and decision-makers.

Compensation Planning – The key to a motivated and satisfied workforce

Compensation and reward strategies have changed radically over the past few years with the impact of the pandemic and the trends that followed.
Compensation Planning - The key to a motivated and satisfied workforce

Oct 2023 – Talent Acquisition: Why your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is more important than ever

This webinar addressing talent acquisition majored on the Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
Talent Acquisition – Why your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is more important than ever

Resourcing Models, Insource, Outsource or Hybrid what are the best solutions?

Discussions on the evening were led by two invited experts Jim Richardson, with spells at Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland as Global Head of Talent, Jim now advises corporate businesses on their TA models, and, Ross Crook, Managing Director at Sanderson Solutions.
Resourcing models round table

Sep 2023 – Retention: Holding on to The Talent You Need

The post-pandemic workforce now presents more of a challenge in terms of feeling satisfied and content in the workplace. This webinar on retention also provided a masterclass on employee engagement.
Retention holding on to the talent you need

Aug 2023 – Professional Development: Making the Step Up

What does it take to be an HR Director, or to take a position at Board level? This webinar looked at professional development for HR leaders.
What does it take to be an HR Director?

Jul 2023 – Employee Benefits: Then, now and next

The importance and value of giving employees choice on rewards and recognition.
Employee benefits, then now and next.

Jun 2023 – HR Data: The Key To Delivering Real Value

This webinar on HR Data brought home the importance of understanding the value of people data not just to HR but to the business as a whole.
HR on demand event - HR data: the key to delivering real value

RPO Market – Insource, Outsource or Hybrid: What are the best solutions?

The HR World and Sanderson Managed Services Ltd held an exclusive Round Table dinner to explore and debate the current RPO arena.

AI as part of the hiring, on-boarding and retention processes

The HR World and Sanderson Managed Services Ltd held an exclusive Round Table dinner to further the discussion of AI among Senior HR Leaders.

May 2023 – AI in HR: The Perfect Balance

AI is hitting the headlines right now as experts forecast a future that’s powered by tech. But what will this mean for HR?
On demand hr webinar - Ai in HR

Apr 2023 – HR Tech: Ensuring your technology delivers for all your people

Technology continues to throw challenges at the HR function as the speed of change increases and new technology (anyone noticed something called AI?) enters the arena.
HR tech on demand webinar with Sympa

Mar 2023 – Equality, diversity, and inclusion: Reshaping thinking for action

In this webinar we explored how ED&I can have a real impact for businesses. At the centre of the discussion was the idea of changing thinking in order to make things happen.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion: Reshaping thinking for action

Feb 2023 – Leading With Agility: How to give your business the behaviours and mindsets it needs for volatile times

This webinar took as its focus agility and how businesses can develop and maintain these skills among its workforce.
This webinar took as its focus agility and how businesses can develop and maintain these skills among its workforce.

Jan 2023 – How can you create a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace?

This webinar tackled the important and timely issue of creating a health and wellbeing culture in the workplace.
How can you create a culture of health and wellbeing in the workplace?

Bridging the gap: what can employers learn about emerging talent to drive better hiring strategies?

Join us at this cross-learning, in-person event as part of The HR World Culture Clash series, bringing HRDs, founders and emerging talent together to build a better workforce for the future.
Bridging the gap: what can employers learn about emerging talent to drive better hiring strategies?
HRW Membership@2x@2x

Are you a senior HR professional?

Join our membership to shape the future of work, get exclusive access to events, white papers and research content, profile your work, gain access to support from HR experts and celebrate your successes.

Become a Partner

Please get in touch to talk about how we can help your business make an impact in the world of work through our content marketing, partnership plans and advertising.