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Covid exemptions: social care staff must be protected from bad bosses

 

Union warns that "less scrupulous" employers could force staff to work

Social care staff have been warned about unscrupulous bosses attempting to take advantage of exemptions to Covid isolation.

The warning, but public services union Unison, follows the Scottish Government announcement that certain key workers can attend work despite being required to self-isolate following contact with a positive case.

This only applies in specific circumstances where workers have received two vaccines and tested negative, and it is on a voluntary basis.

John Mooney, Unison’s head of social care in Scotland, fears workers may be forced to attend work during their self-isolation period.

He said: “We have already dealt with cases where our members have been told by their managers they can come to work when they have been told to self-isolate before there has been any talk of exemptions and we have had to step in and put them right.

“We are worried that some employers may seek to take advantage of the situation irrespective of the guidance. They could ignore the fact they are in the same household as someone who has tested positive or tell them they must come to work, even though the policy is voluntary.”

He said that “less scrupulous” employers could see this as a green light to bypass public health concerns to meet staffing needs.

Mooney added: “Our social care workers help look after people who are extremely vulnerable. After working through the pandemic the last thing they need is being placed in a situation where they risk passing Covid on to those in their care.

“We have worked our way through countless cases of members not being paid for self-isolating despite the government introducing the Social Care Support Fund to ensure they don’t suffer financial detriment and we have had to challenge the employers to pay them. Now there is a risk employers could use this as a weapon to make workers ”volunteer” to attend work when self-isolating, even when these workers are following government advice.

“We want assurances that the Social Care Support Fund will continue and that workers will not lose out financially because of the actions of their employers.”

Unison has also raised additional concerns that because staff must volunteer to work when self-isolating, employers could use this to absolve them of any responsibility.

Workers in social care who are told to self-isolate should ensure they are paid as normal through the Adult Social Care Support Fund for the period of their absence.

Unison’s Head of Health, Willie Duffy, warned the new rules were not an "appropriate or well evidenced" response and could lead to further spread of the virus.

We have raised our concerns with the Scottish government and it’s frustrating that these have largely been ignored. We do not believe these new rules to exempt critical staff from self-isolation is an appropriate or well evidenced response to address the current staffing crisis. This could further the spread of Covid and have considerable negative impact on staff and the patients they care for.

“We are fully aware of the pressure our health and care services are under and as always, our members are going above and beyond to do everything they can. But asking staff to adhere to the new rules is creating a double standard and as such Unison Scotland cannot support these new rules.”

 

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