Starting next year, Kroger will terminate some COVID-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees, as the grocery operator encourages more staff to get inoculated amid rising fears about the Omicron coronavirus variant's spread.

According to a spokeswoman, the grocer will no longer grant unpaid COVID-19 leave to unvaccinated employees and will impose a $50 monthly health insurance penalty on salaried non-union staff who are unvaccinated and participating in the company healthcare plan.

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According to a regulatory filing, Kroger, one of the largest private employers in the United States, employed around 465,000 full and part-time employees as of Jan. 31.

"As we prepare to navigate the next phase of the pandemic, we are modifying policies to encourage safe behaviors including vaccination," added the spokeswoman.

The attempt to have more staff vaccinated comes as US President Joe Biden struggles to implement his vaccine-or-test policy for private companies. Consumers may flock to Kroger shops in the coming weeks to stock up on groceries and home staples as a result of concerns about the new Omicron model, according to analysts. Kroger has urged customers to "to only buy what they need," according to a statement released earlier this month.