The independent London newspaper

Union calls for sick pay support as test and trace begins

05 June, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Andrew Berry: ‘If any care worker is asked to isolate, they must be confident they can afford to do so’

THE statutory sick pay allowance is forcing care workers to choose between shielding themselves from the coronavirus and being able to eat, a union has said.

The Islington branch of trade union Unison has called on the council to urge private care operators to pay their staff more than the statutory sick pay allowance of £95.85 a week if they have to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

The government has announced a £600million “infection control fund” which local authorities can use to support care homes staff who need to self-isolate.

Unison has said that Islington Council should use these funds to secure better conditions for staff but the Town Hall has turned the fire on the government, saying that the fund is not “adequate” to implement better sick pay.

Andrew Berry, Islington Unison Labour link officer, said: “The announcement that track, trace and isolate will commence renders this matter extremely urgent. We need full sick and isolation pay urgently to help reduce the spread of the virus. If any care worker is asked to isolate, they must be confident they can afford to do so. This is too important an issue to duck and one way or another the council must find the money to fund this initiative.”

Unison is also calling on the council to backdate sick and isolation pay to March.

Islington has received £845,000 of the £600million fund.

There are five older people’s care home providers in Islington and as private organisations they each have their own policies related to sickness, absence and sickness pay.

The Town Hall’s social care chief, Cllr Janet Burgess, said: “For years, carers have been the unsung heroes of our nation – it has taken this coronavirus crisis to finally shine a light on the tremendous work they do alongside the rightly-praised NHS. Particularly during this pandemic, carers are literally putting their lives on the line in order to look after some of our most frail and vulnerable citizens, in difficult and doubtless mentally stressful circum­stances.

“Many will be working to support their own families, and if they need to self-isolate, or fall ill themselves, they deserve full sick pay.

“But this is only possible with adequate government funding. This government needs to recognise the importance of social care and fully fund the service.”

A Department for Health spokesman said: “In addition to the recent £600million Infection Control Fund to help maintain the normal wages of staff who may need to self-isolate, we have also provided £3.2billion to councils to help meet pressures, including the costs associated with maintaining workers’ income.

“Employers are also able to furlough care workers who cannot work for a long period of time, meaning they continue to receive 80 per cent of their normal income.”


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