August 14, 2022

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Kroger Co. will eliminate paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID-19 and require...

Kroger Co. will eliminate paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract COVID-19 and require some unvaccinated employees on the company’s health care plan to pay a $50 monthly surcharge, the company said Tuesday. 
The grocery chain, which employs around 465,000 U.S. workers, is one of the largest private employers to institute stricter COVID-19 rules for unvaccinated employees without outright requiring the vaccine. The new measures come as cases rise across the country and health experts brace for another wave fueled by the omicron variant. 
“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,” a Kroger spokesperson said in a statement. “To accomplish this, we created and amended several workplace policies at the onset of the pandemic to support our associates during immense uncertainty.”
The monthly surcharge will go into effect on Jan. 1 and will apply only to salaried, nonunion employees enrolled in the company’s health care plan. Kroger is incentivizing workers to get vaccinated with a $100 payment. 
Various employers have been considering the health insurance surcharge as a way to encourage their workers to get vaccinated without mandating the shot. Businesses don’t want to fire employees who wouldn’t comply with a vaccine requirement amid a tight labor market. 
Delta Air Lines was the first major employer to add a health insurance surcharge for unvaccinated workers, announcing a $200 monthly fee in August. The policy helped Delta surpass a 90 percent vaccination rate as of October. 
The news of Kroger’s new COVID-19 rules was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. 
Kroger and other major retailers had been bracing for the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large private employers, but the order is currently blocked in federal court.

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