MONEY

Kroger adds monthly surcharge for unvaccinated workers, cuts their COVID-19 sick leave

Alexander Coolidge
Cincinnati Enquirer

In a bid to push more of its workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Kroger will eliminate paid pandemic-related leave and charge $50 per month to employees that haven't gotten shots.

Kroger stopped short of mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for workers, but said it is "modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination." Company officials added the grocer will also continue to offer a one-time $100 bonus to workers that get fully vaccinated.

The $50 surcharge goes into effect Jan. 1 and applies to salaried associates enrolled in a company health plan. The extra expense would cost an employee $600 per year.

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Also starting Jan. 1, unvaccinated employees that get sick from COVID-19 will still be able to take their earned paid-time-off or be allowed to apply for unpaid leave but won't get extra paid-time-off Kroger implemented since the start of the pandemic. Vaccinated employees that fall ill from COVID-19 can get up to two weeks of paid leave without using their regular time-off benefits.

"The administration of the vaccine to our associates has been an integral part of our efforts (to combat the pandemic) and continues to be a focus," said Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard. "We have been navigating the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years and, in line with our values, the safety of our associates and customers has remained our top priority."

In addition to Kroger stores, the grocer operates several regional supermarket chains in 35 states, including Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Ralphs, Mariano's, Fry's, Smith's, King Soopers, QFC and others. The company has nearly 2,800 stores and employs 465,000 workers.

FILE - Kroger Co. will close two supermarkets in Southern California in response to a local ordinance requiring extra pay for certain grocery employees working during the coronavirus pandemic. The decision announced by the company Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, follows a unanimous vote last month by the Long Beach City Council mandating a 120-day increase of $4 an hour for employees of supermarkets with at least 300 employees nationwide and more than 15 in Long Beach.

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