Carers on zero hours contracts should be entitled to sick pay says union

Thousands of care workers helping Lincolnshire's vulnerable and elderly adults are on zero-hours contracts, which unions argue could discourage those infected with coronavirus from staying off work.
Nurse sitting on a hospital bed next to an older womanNurse sitting on a hospital bed next to an older woman
Nurse sitting on a hospital bed next to an older woman

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 2,560 people working on zero-hours contracts in adult social care in Lincolnshire in 2019, 14 per cent of the 18,000-strong workforce.

Of these, 2,310 had direct contact with vulnerable clients, helping wash, dress or feed them, including carers and home helpers.

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.

Across England, almost a quarter of adult social care workers are on zero-hours contracts, accounting for around 370,000 jobs.

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.

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."