Wessex Water gets tough on unjabbed staff by cutting sick pay if they are forced to self-isolate

January 14, 2022
Workers at Bath-headquartered Wessex Water who have not been vaccinated against Covid are to have their sick pay reduced if they are forced to self-isolate.
The firm, which has its head office at Claverton Down and employs around 2,500 people across the West of England, said it had introduced the rule this week to make sure essential water and sewerage services are maintained amid a rapid increase in cases of the omicron variant. 

Absenteeism caused by the virus has doubled in the past week, Wessex Water said.
The change affects unvaccinated staff who are required to self-isolate due to being identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Wessex Water said workers without a medical reason to remain unvaccinated – or who do not have an appointment scheduled for a jab – will now only receive the statutory sick pay minimum of £96.35 per week instead of the firm’s enhanced sick pay.
It said it had not furloughed staff during the pandemic and those previously self-isolating had received full pay.
A spokesman said: “The vast majority of our workforce has been vaccinated and it’s important as a company providing essential services with key worker employees, the remainder get vaccinated to protect themselves, customers and their colleagues.
“To make it easy for our staff, vaccine appointments can be booked in work time.
“Absences due to Covid have doubled in the last week, so we need everyone to be available so we can continue to provide uninterrupted essential water and sewerage services.”
Wessex Water, which is owned by YTL Power International, part of the Malaysian conglomerate YTL, supplies water and sewage services to 2.8m customers across an area of 10,000 sq km stretching from Bath and Wiltshire to Bristol, Somerset, Dorset and parts of Gloucestershire.
People who are vaccinated with at least two doses currently do not need to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with someone infected with Covid. 
However, those who are unvaccinated must isolate for at least five days by law if contacted through the government’s test-and-trace system.
Wessex Water has joined a growing number of firms, including retailers Next and IKEA and supermarket Morrisons, in taking tougher action againt unjabbed staff who are forced to self-isolate.
IKEA admitted it was an “emotive topic” but said its policy had to evolve with changing circumstances.
However, some employment experts and unions have expressed concerns that the moves could make unvaccinated staff less likely to test themselves or self-isolate for fear of facing a large pay cut.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) urges firms not to differentiate between jabbed and unjabbed employees as the consequences could be complex and there were potential legal problems.
CIPD head of public policy Ben Willmott told the BBC: “You would have to manage it on a case-by-case basis because of legal risks.”
Sarah Ozanne, and employment lawyer at legal firm CMS, said employers should consider whether their actions were proportionate as a means of achieving the aim of getting employees back into work.

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