UNISON Northern Ireland

Care Home owners failing to maintain pay for their ill and shielding staff

In October UNISON welcomed the extension of the Department of Health's scheme providing publicly funded financial support to care home owners to subsidise statutory sick pay up to 80% of average salary for workers when they are self-isolating, shielding or ill due to Covid-19.

We raised concerns about its implementation, as it appeared then that many providers were dragging their feet and failing to access the funding.

These concerns have grown over the last few months. While we have successfully challenged and ensured payment for our members in many care homes, there are still some employers still not accessing the scheme. This measure was designed to support an infection prevention and control strategy across and inside the homes . Avoiding use of the scheme is one thing but denying the financial support to the staff is quite another. It is unreasonable and unfair.

It is also unacceptable that the onus should be on staff to challenge their employers refusal to maintain earnings in line with the intentions of the scheme .

Marianne Buick, UNISON Regional Organiser said: “Challenging your employer requires a certain amount of confidence and means that staff in vulnerable positions are most likely not to be receiving any top up.

Our members have been told by growing numbers of employers that the scheme ‘ doesn't apply’ and that they should take Annual Leave instead if they wanted paid for their period of absence period. We have had multiple examples of staff using their entire Annual Leave in the last 8 months in various periods of self-isolation.

Paying staff who are absent due to Covid is not only the right thing to do to treat essential front-line staff with a minimum of fairness and respect, it is also crucial to infection control.

We call on the Department to ensure ALL Care Home providers make use of the scheme and implement the 80% immediately. "