UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON is now aware that the Department of Health has written to HSC Trusts and care home providers to extend financial support to them to include the payment of sick pay up to 80% of average salary for workers when they are self-isolating, shielding or ill due to Covid-19. This support for sick pay was previously in place from 1st June to 31st August. UNISON Head of Bargaining and Representation Anne Speed said:

‘‘UNISON has been calling for full pay for workers who become sick or have to self-isolate from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. We welcome that the Department has now confirmed that it intends to continue with payment of sick pay to staff in care homes backdated to 1 September up to 80% of their average pay. This is something we have been calling on the Minister and his officials to do for several weeks.

However we will continue to seek assurances that this funding is accessed and will end up in the pockets of our members. We are concerned that the Department is reporting that funding previously advanced for this purpose was not taken up by employers, which matches concerns our members have raised with us about not receiving 80% of their pay when the scheme was previously in operation.

Employers must be required to access the support on offer and the Department must ensure that this funding genuinely benefits workers and enables them to stay away from work where needed to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Now that the Department is providing this funding, we also expect all employers to step up to the mark and guarantee 100% of their workers’ wages when they have to take sick leave or self-isolate. They cannot avoid their responsibilities.

It should be recognised that the Minister is having to continue to provide this funding because many employers were only paying the bare minimum in statutory sick pay, rather than the kind of decent occupational sick pay schemes that should be expected. This is but one example of the low pay and poor terms and conditions that workers across social care face and highlights the pressing need for wider reforms through a new Bargaining Forum to ensure workers are not exploited by the care system.’’