NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Kroger is ending some benefits for unvaccinated workers as the company attempts to compel more of their workforce to become vaccinated as cases of COVID-19 are again rising.
Unvaccinated workers will no longer be eligible to receive up to two weeks paid emergency leave if they become infected, a company spokesperson confirmed Tuesday. That policy was put into place last year when vaccines were unavailable.READ MORE: One And Done: Cowboys 4th Quarter Rally Comes Up Short, Fall To 49ers 23-17
The company confirmed changes in benefits first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The change goes into effective January 1.
Officials with Kroger said it will also begin charging a $50 monthly fee to unvaccinated salaried workers and managers who are enrolled in a company health care plan. Unionized workers and non-union hourly workers won’t be charged that fee.
Kroger has nearly 500,000 employees in the U.S.; 66% belong to a union. The company won’t say what percent of its workers are vaccinated.
The White House made it clear Tuesday that Kroger’s policy — including the $50 monthly charge — is not one the federal government is promoting. President Joe Biden backs a vaccine mandate at large companies, but that plan is facing legal opposition. In the meantime, many companies are still trying to get as many of their employees vaccinated as possible.
“We know different private sector companies and entities are going to take different steps to incentivize people to get vaccinated, to keep their employees safe and their work force safe,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at her briefing Tuesday. “It’s not a policy we’re putting out there from the federal government.”READ MORE: Shooting Leaves 1 Dead, Multiple Injured In Fort Worth
Kroger said it will still offer various leave options for employees who contract the virus, including earned paid time off and the ability to apply for unpaid leave. What Kroger called a “special” leave will only remain available to fully vaccinated associates.
Early last year Kroger implemented emergency leave that allowed paid time off for any worker diagnosed with COVID-19. All employees were eligible to receive their standard pay for up to 14 days.
As Kroger modifies some of its policies, the company said that it will continue to encourage workers to get vaccinated with $100 payments given to all fully vaccinated employees.
Kroger employees interact with as many as 9 million customers daily. Asked whether the new policy might encourage some employees to come to work even if they’re sick, a Kroger spokesperson said the company continues to implement enhanced cleaning and physical distancing and requires employees to wear masks in all of its stores and offices, regardless of vaccination status.
Kroger operates more than 175 stores in Texas and more than 2,600 other stores in 34 states and the District of Columbia.MORE NEWS: 'It Was Really Terrifying' Congregation Beth Israel Members React To Hostage Situation
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)