Care workers in Wales must get decent sick pay before winter hits

Thousands of care workers in Wales are facing a double whammy of sky-high bills and the threat of poverty after the latest government decision on sick pay, warns public services union UNISON.

Care workers in Wales will not receive any top up to their sick pay if they have to self-isolate from the end of this month the Welsh Government has told unions including UNISON.

The measure was brought in at the height of the pandemic to ensure care workers could afford to self-isolate to protect vulnerable people they care for and other staff from the coronavirus.

More than 60% of care in Wales is delivered by the private sector who in the main do not pay their workers sick pay.

The scheme was originally welcomed by trades unions as a good use of funds for the devolved nations from emergency funding in England.

Care workers in Wales at least were guaranteed normal pay if they had to self isolate.

Mark Turner, head of social care for UNISON Cymru/Wales, said the decision by the Welsh Government not to provide any supplement to statutory sick pay for social care workers will cause an impossible dilemma for staff in the private and third sector in Wales during the coming winter.

He said: “This is disappointing, but perhaps not unexpected news.

“With the English emergency funding long since finished, Welsh Government has extended this scheme as long as it could within the existing resources.

“But, this latest decision will cause impossible dilemmas for care workers in the private and third sector in Wales during the coming winter.

“If there is another, more transmissible or more severe  new strain of the virus, tens of thousands of already low paid care workers, will face a double whammy of the cost of living crisis and being plunged into greater poverty simply because they are ill, or to protect our vulnerable. It’s not sustainable and it’s not acceptable.”

Dominic MacAskill, UNISON Cymru/Wales regional secretary, said: “We know that Welsh Government is committed to improving pay and conditions for care workers, but it’s latest decision could provoke a deepening crisis in care.

“UNISON is calling for the creation of a national care service, which takes the delivery of care back into direct council provision and removes the profit motive.

“That would be the easiest way to drive up standards and secure decent pay, conditions and dignity for care workers. As an immediate step ministers must prioritise the creation of collective bargaining across the sector, so things like proper sick pay, in line with the health service and council workers, be placed at the top of the agenda.

“There can be no further delay. UNISON and other trade unions will be calling for care workers in Wales to receive decent sick pay before winter pressures hit.”