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Calls for better protections for care workers

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GMB, trade union, care workers, protective clothing, PPE, sick pay, Jeremy Corbyn, letter, Borish Johnson, The UK’s sick pay system is “manifestly inadequate”.

The GMB, ‘the trade union for everyone’, has warned that the UK’s care system is in danger of “total collapse” because of the coronavirus health crisis, and has issued five demands to the government to support care workers.

The GMB has reminded the government that thousands of key workers supporting the most vulnerable people in society are working with “little or no personal protective equipment”.

And if they become ill, care workers face a choice between continuing to go to work or not going and having to survive on the current statutory sick pay, which is £94.25 per week.

The GMB’s five demands are:

1 – Full pay for all social care workers in self-isolation or sick due COVID-19 and for the Government to underwrite any employers who can’t afford it;

2 – Paid time off to care for children when there is no other option available;

3 – Priority PPE [personal protective equipment], gloves, masks, and sanitiser making sure that the trade union’s members are protected while they protect our loved ones;

4 – Priority testing for all social care workers; and

5 – Safe staffing levels to allow for all staff to provide safe care and to have adequate breaks to avoid burnout.

The Care lead at the GMB, Kelly Andrews, said: “Our care system is in danger of total collapse during the coronavirus crisis.

“Our carers are distraught that they have to work with little or no PPE and, horrifyingly, are being told that if a resident tests positive then they cannot return home.

“Despite being on the frontline, and utterly vital to stop our society from crumbling, they are on minimum wage, with unpaid breaks and are unable to rely on schools for childcare.

“And to rub salt in the wound, if they become ill they either have to try and support their families on poverty sick pay – or turn up to work ill which could be a death sentence for residents.

“GMB is demanding all care providers pay full pay for all staff during this outbreak to allow peace of mind to those vital staff that care for everyone else before themselves.”

Figures published by the European Commission showed the UK second from bottom in the sick pay league table of member states, with only Malta providing a lower level of support.

The UK’s weekly rate for statutory sick pay – £94.25 for up to 28 weeks – is on average just 20 per cent of a worker’s income.

UK sick pay coverage does last longer than most of its European counterparts, but it has a longer waiting period before it kicks in.

In the UK, workers can normally only claim after four days sick in a row, although this has been changed temporarily amid the coronavirus crisis. In around half of EU member states, sick pay is available immediately

The UK was one of only four EU countries where self-employed people are not eligible for any sick pay.

In 2018 the European Committee of Social Rights found that the UK’s sick pay system was “manifestly inadequate” and “not in conformity” with legal obligations under the European Social Charter.

Outgoing Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn issued a series of demands in a letter sent to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson on 14 March.

In that letter, Corbyn called on the government to implement the following:

Full sick pay and lost earnings protection from day one for all, including insecure, low paid and self-employed workers, during self-isolation and illness;

Statutory sick pay to increase in line with other European countries with similar economies;

Rent deferrals and mortgage holidays, so that landlords cannot evict tenants and mortgage companies cannot take action against homeowners;

Remove the requirement for face to face Universal Credit interviews in all cases, immediately suspend sanctions, and immediately and sharply reduce the five-week wait for a payment;

Support local authorities working with food banks to buy and distribute food.

To read the full letter, click here.

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