Care homes across Stockport are to be told they must give staff full sick pay for all coronavirus-related absences.
It comes after a survey conducted by UNISON found that eight out of 10 care workers in the north west did not receive their usual wages if they were ill or had to self-isolate or shield because of Covid-19.
The trade union also reported evidence of carers in Stockport facing financial hardship after being placed on £95 per week Statutory Sick Pay.
One had to apply for a charity grant in order to make ends meet, while others have struggled to pay the bills or gone back to work early because of money worries.
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But Stockport council has now joined 12 other north west authorities, in formally supporting and UNISON’s Care Workers vs COVID-19 Campaign.
Councillors have unanimously backed a Labour motion calling for action to address the ‘serious public health risk’ to care workers who - according to the Office for National Statistics - are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than their NHS counterparts.
Stockport council has been awarded £3.1m from the government’s Infection Control Fund, to help reduce COVID-19 transmission in and between care homes and protect staff.
And the motion calls for care providers to use that additional funding ‘to pay care workers their full normal pay for all COVID-19 related absence, including sickness, self-isolation or shielding’.
It adds that ‘the council should ‘write to all current providers of council-commissioned care services at the earliest opportunity to advise them of this requirement’.
Coun Charlie Stewart, who tabled the motion, told a full council meeting he hoped it would send a message that Stockport ‘recognises and respects the service and the sacrifice our social care workers have made on our behalf’.
He said: “No one should have to make a choice between their health and being forced into hardship. When this crisis is finally over - and there’s no real sign of it ending soon - we will be eternally grateful to the key workers with such dedication to protect and care for our loved ones during these unprecedented times.”
The Manor ward councillor added: “Care workers do a job that many of use would walk, and some would run, away from. It’s taken a national crisis for us to learn their real value. They deserve more than our gratitude and admiration, they need action, support and adequate resources we demand of them.”
Seconding the motion, Coun Laura Clingan said that care workers had ‘for too long been ‘under-recognised, under-valued and under-paid’ adding that it was’ time to turn our warm words and support into action’.
Confirming the Liberal Democrats backing for the motion, Coun Keith Holloway said it was ‘quite wrong’ care workers should feel forced to work when they should be isolating due to their, or a family members illness.
But he added that it was ‘important to recognise’ that the decisions and actions of the government had led to carers being placed in the situation.
Conservative group leader Coun Mike Hurlestone questioned whether the council would be able to ensure care homes - most of which are private businesses - used additional funding to provide full pay in the case of all Covid-19-related absences.
But despite misgivings over additional costs potentially leading to job losses, the Tories backed the motion on the principle care workers should receive full pay if they were ill, had to isolate, or shield.
The motion also included a commitment to ‘review procurement and commissioning policies with a view to increasing the weighting of social value commissioning and to ensure it includes specific requirements around occupational sick pay.’
The full council meeting was held at Stockport Town Hall on Thursday, July 9.