Coronavirus: Islington UNISON calls for all care workers to get full sick and isolation pay

PUBLISHED: 17:14 02 June 2020 | UPDATED: 15:22 03 June 2020

Care home stock image. Picture: Victoria Jones/ PA

Care home stock image. Picture: Victoria Jones/ PA

PA Wire/PA Images

Islington Council has backed Unison’s calls for care workers to be guaranteed full pay for “sickness and isolation” – but says central government must foot the tab.

Jane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly HancockJane Doolan, branch secretary of Islington UNISON. Picture: Polly Hancock

Islington Council has backed UNISON’s calls for care workers to be guaranteed full pay for “sickness and isolation” – but says central government must foot the tab.

This comes after the government announced a £600m “infection control fund” on May 15.

Thirty-three people have died with coronavirus in Islington care homes as of May 22, according to weekly ONS figures released on June 2.

UNISON’s Islington branch has called for the local authority to become “one of the first councils in London to guarantee full pay for sickness and isolation for all staff in contracted care homes and all contracted homecare agencies”.

It also says sick and isolation pay should be provided for those working at privately owned care homes in the borough.

Islington’s share of the fund is £845,176. It has to spend 75% of this on efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19 inside and between care homes. The leaves about £210,000 for other infection control measures, which can include workforce resilience measures like increased sick pay.

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But this has to be split equally across all the care home beds in the borough, council run or not.

There are 16 care homes in Islington and the council only runs three, so has a fraction of the total beds.

Five private firms run the other 13 care, each has its own policies related to sickness, absence and sickness pay.

As a minimum, each pays statutory sick pay which is just £95.85 per week.

Jane Doolan, Islington Unison branch secretary says: “Full sick and self-isolation pay is not just a trade union position. It’s about saving the lives of care workers, service users and residents as well as the wider community, by stopping transmission of the virus.”

Islington’s health and social care lead Cllr Janet Burgess said: “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. 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 of health and social care spokesperson said: “We recognise the vital support and hard work of our social care workers during these challenging times.

“In addition to the recent £600 million Infection Control Fund to help maintain the normal wages of staff who may need to self-isolate, we have also provided £3.2bn 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% of their normal income.”

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