Ikea has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate because of Covid exposure and in some cases for workers who test positive.

The retail giant acknowledged it was an “emotive topic” but said its policy had to evolve with changing circumstances.

From this week, sick pay cuts will be implemented at Wessex Water and in the US several major companies have started penalising unjabbed workers.

It comes as firms struggle with mass staff absences and rising costs.

At Ikea unvaccinated workers who are required to isolate could now receive as little as £96.35 a week – the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) minimum.

If a worker is unvaccinated and has tested positive for Covid, but had a medical exemption, such as being unable to have a jab, the company said it would consider individual cases as to whether people would be paid full sick pay.

However, Ikea said if there were no mitigating circumstances, bosses would look at the infected worker’s absence record and then make a decision over sick pay, which might result in some being placed on SSP.

Average wages at Ikea are between about £400 and £450, depending on location and, as is the case at many companies, staff get enhanced sick pay. The move was first reported by the Mail on Sunday.

Ikea, which employs about 10,000 people in the UK, said in a statement: “Fully vaccinated co-workers or those with mitigating circumstances will receive full pay for self-isolations.

“Unvaccinated co-workers will be paid in line with our company absence policy for self-isolation, with close-contact isolation being paid at Statutory Sick Pay.

“We appreciate that this is an emotive topic and all circumstances will be considered on a case by case basis, therefore anyone in doubt or concerned about their situation is encouraged to speak to their manager.”