Third of care staff still not receiving full sick pay for self-isolating, Unison survey finds

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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, Unison has revealed.    

A survey of 4,000 care staff, published today, also shows that many employees are still facing pressure from their bosses to go into work, despite displaying virus symptoms or needing to self-isolate.   

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.    

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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 £96.35 a week, and some (6%) were paid more than SSP, but less than full pay.   

This is despite government launching a scheme that is supposed to ensure staff are fully compensated if they need to stay off work because they tested positive, were showing symptoms or were shielding.

The £600m infection control fund was announced by the government in May. Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said at the time that one of the purposes was to ensure care staff were “not penalised” for staying away from work.

Fear of losing out financially means some staff with suspected Covid continued to care for vulnerable people. 

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.    

The union’s senior national officer for social care Gavin Edwards 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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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke