Unison says many care workers employed in private sector fear taking time off sick.
15 June 2022
Some care care workers employed in the private sector are not receiving any pay if they are off sick, according to a new study.
Unison said a survey of over 2,000 care workers employed by private firms across the UK, found that more than half only received the statutory sick pay of £99.35 a week, while one in 12 said they were not paid anything.
The union said the results highlighted the “precariousness” of low-paid care staff in unstable employment who fear the consequences of taking time off when ill.
Many who were ill during the pandemic had to use up savings, rack up credit card debt or use annual leave as they had so little money to live on, said Unison.
One in 15 respondents said they carried on going into work, despite the risks, after testing positive for Covid because they could not afford for their wages to be cut.
One in eight said they were put under pressure from their employer to carry on working when they should have been isolating, often because they were told they might be sacked or disciplined for taking time off.
The cost-of-living crisis has made it more vital that privately employed care staff are given full pay when poorly because many can’t afford to stop working otherwise, said Unison.
General secretary Christina McAnea said: “The pandemic has shown up massive inequalities in social care.
“Care staff employed by local councils often have good sick pay arrangements, but most in the sector work for private employers where full sick pay is a rarity.
“This means huge numbers are left high and dry if they are unfortunate enough to fall ill.
“Many care workers had no choice but to use up money they had put by or run up debts on their cards.
“Social care is already in crisis with thousands of vacancies.
“Care workers are jumping ship for less stressful jobs with better wages where full sick pay is standard.
“Ministers should show they are committed to real reform by ensuring all workers are given full pay when ill or isolating.
“It should be a basic right for everyone, no matter where they work.”
Comments from care staff in the survey included:
– “I went into arrears with my credit card because I wasn’t being paid. I had to consolidate the debts to manage payment and it’s now impossible for me to get any more credit.”
– “I was off for three weeks with Covid and all I received was SSP. It meant I had to be really careful about spending over the following two months. Work offered no support, even though I caught the virus from a client.”
– “My employer doesn’t pay sick pay for the first three days, so the following month after being ill I was nearly £200 short. Colleagues have said they would work while infected because they can’t afford to lose the money.”
– “I had to use my savings from the overtime I worked. It means all that hard extra work I put in was all undone.”