UNISON Northern Ireland


UNISON notes and welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Health, Robin Swann MLA, that the Department of Health will provide funding for care homes to pay staff 80% of their salary when on sick leave for Covid-19 related reasons. UNISON Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown 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. This is a step in the right direction for care home staff who have faced fundamentally unfair and unethical treatment whilst working in extremely difficult circumstances.

However we are seeking clarity from the Department and the HSC Trusts as to how they will ensure that this funding ends up in the pockets of our members, not in their employers’ bank accounts. The Department must ensure that this funding genuinely benefits workers in care homes 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 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 provide this funding because many employers have only been 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.

We recall the Minister’s wider commitment to improve pay and terms and conditions and would remind him that our homecare workers also face the same kinds of problems, problems which must be urgently resolved. We continue to urge the Minister to convene a Forum to discuss the wider reforms that are required, to ensure that the elderly and most vulnerable in our society receive the high-quality services they need and workers are no longer exploited by our system.’’