Kroger Ending COVID-19 Sick Leave Benefits for Unvaccinated Workers, Adding Health Surcharge

By Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
December 14, 2021 Updated: December 14, 2021

Kroger is ending certain benefits for unvaccinated workers in order to compel its workforce to take a COVID-19 vaccine. Unvaccinated workers will no longer be eligible to receive up to two weeks of paid emergency sick leave if they get sick with COVID-19 variants.

Kroger, the country’s largest grocery chain, employs almost 500,000 employees who interact with as many as 9 million customers daily across the nation.

“We are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination, which we continue to incentivize with a $100 payment for all fully vaccinated associates,” said Kristal Howard, director of Corporate Communications and Media Relations for Kroger in an email to The Epoch Times.

Only unvaccinated managers and other non-union employees on the company health plan will face the $50 monthly surcharge.

A “$50 monthly surcharge will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022 and only apply to salaried associates who are unvaccinated and enrolled in a company healthcare plan,” not to hourly associates or unionized workers, said Howard.

“While COVID-19 leave will no longer be available to unvaccinated associates, we continue to offer a variety of forms of leave for associates who may contract the virus, including earned PTO and the ability to apply for unpaid leave.”

Only fully vaccinated workers who get a COVID variant will still get special sick leave.

Howard said that the previous emergency leave policy was put into place last year when vaccines were unavailable.

Kroger implemented emergency leave in 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic that allowed paid time off for any worker diagnosed with the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

All employees were eligible to receive their standard pay for up to 14 days.

Kroger’s policy changes will not apply to employees with approved medical or religious accommodations.

The company said that it will continue to make adjustments to comply with OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Kroger is one of many companies abstaining from forcing an outright mandate on its employees, instead using coercion through the application of company-sponsored health plans.

The OSHA vaccine mandate was suspended last month after being blocked by a federal court.

Private businesses can legally force their employees to take the vaccines and boosters, and can dismiss those who will not comply.

Workers can be required to wear masks or get regular weekly tests for the virus and can face the withholding of company perks or face extra fees on their company health insurance for non-compliance.

However, many companies are weary of strictly applying vaccine mandates due to persistent labor shortages.

Many retail workers have quit to avoid company vaccine mandates or over concerns about spreading or contracting the virus at their jobs.

Bryan Jung
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.