GMB is calling for all social care staff to receive full pay when sick after a recent survey of its members showed the vast majority of care workers would be forced to work when ill.
The union, which represents people working in social care, consulted almost 1,000 people working in the industry and found that 81% of them were unable to afford to take time off sick.
As a result of the findings, GMB has launched its ‘care full pay’ programme that is advocating for care providers and government to ensure full sick pay is introduced in the industry.
The UK has the second lowest statutory sick pay policy in Europe, with workers being offered just £95.85 a week when they can’t go to work due to illness.
Sick pay rates are significantly higher in countries such as France, Spain and Italy, whilst in Norway and Germany all workers receive their full wage when they’re unable to go to work.
The GMB survey also showed that 80% of care workers would be forced to take on debt or borrow from family and friends to make ends meet after taking time off sick.
Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer said: “The issue is this – workers in a healthcare setting on statutory sick pay is an infection control risk.
“Most social care staff simply cannot afford to be sick under the current arrangements. They are being presented with a terrible choice and getting penalised with poverty sick pay just for doing the right thing.
“The findings clearly show a trend across social care – that the statutory sick pay system represents a significant risk, heightened during a pandemic.
“It’s time for the government and care providers to take action and provide the full sick pay that will ensure care staff aren’t forced into contemplating working whilst sick.”
According to Amnesty International, the UK has one of the highest coronavirus death rates for health and social care workers as many staff couldn’t afford to self-isolate when they developed symptoms.
Currently, statutory sick pay covers less than 20% of the average UK weekly income of £544. The figure is so low that two years ago the UK system was ruled to be in breach of EU law.
In March, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that he wouldn’t be able to live on the money provided by the UK’s sick pay scheme, but the government has offered no plans to increase the rate of sick pay.