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Kroger to remove some Covid benefits for unvaccinated employees

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Kroger will eliminate some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees starting next year, as the supermarket chain pushes more workers to get inoculated amid growing concerns over the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant.

The grocer will no longer provide unpaid Covid-19 leave for unvaccinated employees and will apply a $50 monthly health insurance surcharge to salaried non-union workers who are unvaccinated and enrolled in a company healthcare plan, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Kroger, among the biggest private employers in the United States, had about 465,000 full and part-time workers as of Jan. 31, according to a regulatory filing.

“As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination,” the spokesperson said.

The push to get more employees vaccinated comes as U.S. President Joe Biden faces setbacks in implementing his vaccine-or-test mandate for private businesses.

Concerns over the new omicron variant could cause a jump in crowds at Kroger stores in the coming weeks as consumers look to stock up on goods and household essentials, analysts have said. Kroger is encouraging shoppers “to only buy what they need,” the company said earlier this month.

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