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Care employers still not giving sick pay to Covid-hit staff, says UNISON survey

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Christina McAnea says government must reform sector and ensure employers guarantee full pay

A third of care staff are getting less than £100 a week – and some no pay at all – for having to shield or self-isolate during the pandemic, according to a UNISON survey published today (Monday).

The findings – from over 4,000 workers in the UK, including those in care homes and out in the community – also show employees face pressure from bosses to go into work, despite displaying virus symptoms or needing to self-isolate.

Separate evidence seen by UNISON confirms large care companies and many smaller ones across the country are refusing to pay full normal wages for staff affected by Covid – or are telling them to use holiday leave.

Half (51%) of those who completed UNISON’s survey had to self-isolate on occasions in the last 15 months and a similar proportion (49%) did not.

Of those who had to stay at home, only half received full pay. Of the rest, 11% got no pay at all if they had to be off work, a third received statutory sick pay (SSP) of just £96.35 a week, and some (6%) were paid more than SSP but less than full pay.

This is despite government advice to employers to pay all staff in full which was backed by a pledge from health secretary Matt Hancock, says UNISON.

Fear of losing out financially means some staff with suspected Covid continued to care for vulnerable people. Government studies have concluded this has increased the likelihood of Covid-19 outbreaks, says UNISON.

Money worries was the reason given by more than one in ten (13%) care staff for working despite having possible Covid symptoms, and by 8% who continued going in when they should have been off self-isolating.

Pressure from their employer to go to work was an issue for 10% who had possible symptoms and for a similar proportion (7%) of those who should have been self-isolating.

UNISON said the government should guarantee all care sector workers automatic access to full normal wages for periods of self-isolation. Payment should be mandatory and the responsibility of all care employers, the union says.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s over a year into the pandemic and staff still face severe financial hardship for self-isolating.

“Care workers who follow official health guidance mustn’t be penalised with huge cuts in wages. Not paying those affected by Covid puts the vulnerable at risk by driving up infections.

“The government should ensure all care employers guarantee staff full income. The care sector also needs to be reformed urgently and that includes decent wages for workers.”

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