Hello and Happy Friday!! We hope you’ve all had a good week and are looking forward to the long weekend.
Payments for Self Isolation
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock has announced that people on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with high incidence of COVID-19, will be eligible for a new payment scheme starting on 1 September. Eligible individuals who test positive with the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation. Other members of their household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to a payment of £182. Non-household contacts advised to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace will also be entitled to a payment of up to £182, tailored to the individual length of their isolation period. Further details are here.
The £13-a-day payment will only apply to those under local lockdowns and will first be piloted in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham. This amount is simply not sufficient to support struggling families. It equates to the level of Statutory Sick Pay; which the Health Minister admits he could not live on, but expects us to survive on it.
This payment is little more than an inadequate and belated concession by the Government that many families face an impossible choice between health and hardship. To actually address the issue workers should receive their full pay whilst self-isolating, in all areas, and SSP needs to be increased to the level of the Real Living Wage, and extended to all workers (2 million low paid staff currently do not qualify for SSP).
Extension on Evictions Ban
Last week Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced that the ban on evictions for those in rental properties would be extended for a further four weeks, following calls from Labour and housing campaigners. Although the extension is welcome, a further four weeks will offer little comfort to those potentially facing eviction, particularly given that in March Robert Jenrick said that no one should lose their home because of the Corona Virus epidemic.
The plight of private sector renters in particular is symptomatic of the housing crisis that this country has endured over many years. The housing sector requires wholesale reform, including investment in social housing that is genuinely affordable. We highlight the concerns raised by Shelter in their blog post and share this with you here.
Members may have heard in the news today of a study conducted by the British Medical Journal which concludes that the risk of children requiring hospital treatment for coronavirus is "tiny" and critical care "even tinier". The study covers two-thirds of all children's hospital admissions in the UK due to Covid-19 between January and July. Wirral Unison welcomes the findings of this study and we are sure that it will offer relief to parents. However, we are clear that the findings of this study should not be used as a way to undermine the legitimate health and safety concerns of young people, parents and school staff related to children returning to school next week.
Where members are worried, school leaders must listen to concerns and do everything they can to reduce the risks and assure staff of their safety. We would expect that all members should, by now have seen the schools risk assessment for full opening and been able to discuss any concerns you may have. If you have not yet seen your schools risk assessment, please request a copy and let us know if you are worried about any of the information contained within it. Unison nationally have published guidance for members on what to do if you have serious health and safety concerns about working in school, we attach the link to the guidance here and would encourage all of our members who work in schools to read this important information. Serious H&S Concerns- Advice
As always, please do contact us if you have any concerns.
Working from Home
Members may have seen government minister, Grant Shapps on breakfast television this morning stating that the government had now changed its position and would be encouraging workers to return to their offices. Whilst there may be a mixture of views about this, it is clear that the Government’s change of emphasis is driven more by the needs of big business and their falling profits than it is in the interests of workers.
We know that the issue of home working is at the forefront of the minds of many of our members at the moment and we understand that there are many aspects to consider. We know that some will have enjoyed the flexibility that may come with home working and others may have concerns related to Covid-19 infection rates and returning to the workplace. These are both issues that require just consideration. However, we are equally aware that some members would rather return to the workplace, reasons might include isolation, financial implications, lack of physical space amongst others.
We are aware that for a large section of our members who work for Wirral Council they have recently received communication about home working being extended for a further period of time. Wirral Unison is currently working up our proposals around how the home working versus workplace question should be resolved. We know that there are no easy answers that will meet the needs and wishes of everyone, however we are driven to ensure that the interests of our members are at the forefront of any consideration. We are not prepared to merely sit back and watch as any employer makes decisions based on cost alone.
We will be having a full discussion on the question of home working at our next Branch Committee on 9 September. We will also be consulting with our members more broadly on this issue. We know that this is an important issue for you and we want to get it right.
That’s all for this week everyone. As always, please feel free to pass our updates on to colleagues and encourage them to join Unison if they haven’t already. Here’s the link to join up! JOIN UNISON
Enjoy the bank holiday weekend and we will be back in touch next week with further updates for you, until then…
Lois and Dave
Branch Office: 0151 666 3040
Central email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on: September 1, 2020