Health workers warn thousands of staff working in the NHS still being denied proper sick pay

Many of those working in private companies within the NHS feel pressured to come in while sick, campaigners say.

Thousands of people working in the NHS are being denied full sick pay – despite NHS guidance saying they are entitled to it – according to health staff.

There are thousands of contractors and workers on zero hours contracts in NHS sites across the country. All ‘zero hours’ contract workers are now entitled get the £96-a-week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), but the NHS’ own advice says all those working in the NHS facilities – including contractors for private companies – should get full pay while off sick.

However, campaigners say this guidance is not being fully enforced, leaving workers feeling pressured to turn up to work while unwell.

Health workers from NHS Trusts all over the UK have now written to Sir Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England, asking for a clear statement setting out the rights of all workers carrying out duties in the NHS to full sick and self isolation pay – and for it to be enforced in all companies working with the health service.

A large part of the NHS workforce – particularly those in non-clinical roles such as cleaning, catering and security – are not directly employed by the NHS. “If any of these workers display symptoms of Covid-19 or if their household members display symptoms,” the letter warns, “they face the choice of following advice and facing severe financial hardship on only Statutory Sick Pay – or keeping working and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus.”

Reports of a lack of full sick pay for outsourced staff run contrary to NHS England’s own guidance, issued to all NHS Trusts on 2nd March 2020, which asked Trusts to: “Ensure any member of staff, including bank staff and sub-contractors, who has to be physically present at an NHS facility to carry out their duties, receives full pay for any period in which they are required to self-isolate as a result of public health advice”. 

There are also around 400,000 social care staff on zero hours contracts in England, meaning they are only entitled to the state minimum sick pay.

The health workers behind the letter are demanding urgent action from NHS England and the government to ‘ensure that NHS workers get the sick pay they need’.

Mental health nurse Stuart Jordan, who organised the letter, said: 

“Most people would be shocked if they were told that NHS workers are turning up for work in hospitals with signs of coronavirus infection. But that is exactly what will inevitably be happening if low paid workers do not have access to proper sick pay. 

“NHS management appear to understand that it is essential for infection control that low paid workers are not financially penalised if they need to follow the public health advice. But this problem cannot be solved by issuing a three line statement buried in a policy document in an obscure part of the internet.

“If NHS managers are serious about slowing the spread of the virus within the NHS then they need to broadcast this provision so everyone who is working alongside us through the pandemic knows they are covered.”

The full text of the letter sent to Sir Simon Stevens:

A significant part of the NHS workforce consists of workers on zero hours contracts and/or employed by subcontractors, with no right to paid time off. They are mostly among the health service’s lowest paid staff. If any of these workers display symptoms of Covid-19 or if their household members display symptoms, they face the choice of following advice and facing severe financial hardship on only Statutory Sick Pay – or keeping working and potentially contributing to the spread of the virus.

We therefore welcome the instruction in the NHS England letter dated 2.3.20 to NHS Trusts to: “ensure any member of staff, including bank staff and sub-contractors, who has to be physically present at an NHS facility to carry out their duties, receives full pay for any period in which they are required to self-isolate as a result of public health advice”.

However we are concerned that not all NHS Trusts have implemented this, and where they have the majority of NHS workers do not know about this policy. NHS employers are not acting on it and publicising it. If workers do not know when they are entitled to paid leave then the risks identified above remain.

Ensuring the policy is put into action is essential for public health as well as the rights of frontline workers caring for patients during the shutdown. We urge you to ensure local policy is in alignment with NHS England’s guidance, and widely publicise it among NHS workers; demand the NHS and all NHS Trusts publicise it extensively; and demand the government publicly commits to the policy and guarantees resources to enact it.

Every day that this does not happen the risks to staff, patients and the service as a whole increase.

Yours sincerely,

  • Stuart Jordan, Community Mental Health Nurse, East London
  • Alison Brown, South Area Secretary Yorkshire Ambulance Service Unison
  • Pete Campbell, NHS Junior Doctor, Newcastle
  • Anita Downs, Palliative care CNS / Unite rep, Lewisham
  • Anthony Johnson, Health Visitor & Lead Organiser for Nurses United UK
  • Mark Boothroyd, ED Staff Nurse, GSTT Unite Branch Secretary
  • Tara McCloskey, Family Nurse, Kilmarnock
  • Carol Dent, Nurse, Llanbedyr y Cennin Conwy
  • Julie Willis, Doctor, Middlesborough
  • Jaika Witana, Consultant Physician, Sheffield
  • Katharine Maciver, Matron, London
  • Ruhul Amin, Administrator, East London
  • Josef Prochazka, Registered Nurse, London
  • Helen Morea, Social Worker, East London
  • Nicola Redwood, Server Technician, Unite Branch Chair, London
  • Christopher Wood, Paramedic, Sheffield
  • Tim Cooper, Healthcare Assistant, Nottingham
  • Lin Scoffin, Assistant Practitioner, Cornwall
  • Lorna Solomon, Occupational Therapist, Unison representative, Hackney
  • Ella Thorp, Staff Nurse, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Hassan Uddin, Support Time Recovery Worker, East London
  • Tom Richardson, Occupational therapist, East London 
  • Jennifer Acheampong, London
  • Daniel Nichols, Trust Temp; Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Fiona Harkin, Registered Nurse (Agency), Luton
  • Emily Kamal-Smith, Mental health nurse, Oxford
  • Laura Horgan, Trauma Coordinator, London
  • Nicole Kelly, Student Nurse, St Albans
  • Diana Rocha, Staff Nurse, London
  • Jessica Giwa-Osagie, Practice Manager, Mitcham
  • Aara Essajee, Nurse, London 
  • Jorge Acevedo-Rodriguez, Registered General Nurse, London
  • Victoria Thorpe, Health Visitor, London
  • Farjana Ahmed, Registered Mental Health Nurse, East London
  • Chris Allen, Retired NHS worker, Leicester
  • Elaine Jones, Unison steward, CWP community health branch, Wirral
  • Shan Tai, Agency Nurse, Worcestershire
  • Bose Awoleye, Social Therapist, East London
  • Selina Misfud, Business Support Officer, Bethnal Green CMHT
  • Afolabi Otulaja, Social Therapist, Tower Hamlets
  • Helen Murrell, General Practitioner, Newcastle on Tyne
  • Sara Stewart, Retired Social Worker, Corby
  • John Puntis, Retired Consultant Paediatrician, Leeds
  • Kim Tunstall, Paramedic, Manchester
  • Allon Gould, Doctor, London
  • Diana Swingler, Occupational Therapist and Unison activist, London
  • Nadira Chowdhury, Social Therapist, East London
  • Catherine James, Genetic Technologist, Newcastle on Tyne
  • Karen Reissmann, Unison NEC (pc)
  • Karen Candlin, Occupational Therapist, Acting Service Manager and Unison Activist, Cheadle
  • Mike Atkinson, Paramedic, Greater Manchester
  • Gerard Reissmann, GP and Doctors in Unite branch treasurer, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Clare Bethell, Retired Health Improvement Manager, Newcastle
  • Kerrie Montgomery, Midwife, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Andrew Gardner, Staff Nurse, North Shields
  • John Whalley, Mental Health Nurse, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Coral Jones, GP, London
  • Anthony Ian Taylor, Psych’ SHO (GP ST2), Newham
  • Anna Livingstone, GP and Barts Health Unite branch treasurer, East London

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