Coronavirus: Sick pay fears for 2,000 Dorset care workers

Coronavirus: Sick pay fears for 2,000 Dorset care workers

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:26am 13th March 2020.

Almost 2,000 care workers helping Dorset's vulnerable and elderly adults are on zero-hours contracts, which unions argue could discourage those infected with coronavirus from staying off work.

Leading trade unions and the Labour Party have called on the Government to step in to ensure care workers with uncontracted hours are entitled to sick pay, after no new measures were announced during Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spring Budget.

  • The latest figures from charity Skills for Care show there were 2,270 people working on zero-hours contracts in adult social care in Dorset in 2019 – 22% of the 10,500-strong workforce.
  • Of these, 1,990 had direct contact with vulnerable clients, helping wash, dress or feed them, including carers and home helpers.
Care elderly lady in wheelchair

Currently, only workers with average weekly earnings of at least £118 are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, which is worth £94.25 per week.

But the Trades Union Congress says a third of people on zero-hours contracts do not earn enough to qualify, as they may not work enough hours or find their hours vary week-by-week.

The Government says it has introduced measures to make claiming benefits such as Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance easier for those who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

But TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said "relying on our broken benefits system is not the solution".

She called on the Government to make Statutory Sick Pay available for all workers, and to increase it to at least the level of the Living Wage.

elderly old

Unison, the public sector union, echoed the call, arguing workers on zero-hours contracts or those juggling several low-paid jobs were "falling through the gaps".

Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said:

"Care workers support some of the most vulnerable in society. 

"Those worried they’ve got the virus should be able to stop home without fear their families will go hungry."

'Measures announced in the budget' 

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a package of measures to address the spread of Covid-19 in his first Budget.

These included extra funding for the NHS, and the introduction of sick notes obtainable through NHS 111. 

Mr Sunak said the outbreak would have a "significant impact" on the UK economy, but that the Government was doing everything it can to "keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure".


But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Government had failed to address an impending "crisis" in social care. He said:

"Underpaid care workers travel from house to house to provide care to elderly and sick people.

"It is a model that could scarcely be better designed to encourage the spread of the virus.

"So, it is vital that the Government ensures care workers do not lose out for staying away from work if they experience symptoms."