07899715085 or 07899713498 unison1@wirral.gov.uk

Coronavirus update 24.11.20

Dear Member

We hope you are all keeping well. We are sure many of you will have followed the announcements from the government either watching the press conference last night or in the news this morning. We obviously await the details of which Tier we will be in which will come on Thursday. The full detail of the governments plans can be found here but we will highlight a few issues related to the world of work.

Home Working

The Government has re-iterated its call for workers to work from home if at all possible, until April. Of course there are good grounds for this, but whilst gas and electricity usage soars for home workers, employers are in many cases making saving. The government does explicitly allow employers to make compensatory payments, yet in many cases the corporate purse stays shut.

The latest government guidance states:
“Working from home can reduce transmission. Between 24 April and 3 May, 36% of employees were working exclusively from home. These numbers declined as expected over the summer. However, since the Government renewed its Work From Home guidance in late September and through the period of the November national restrictions, the numbers working from home have remained relatively low compared to earlier in the year. SAGE advice is that typically over one third of contacts are made at work, that these are often of long duration and highly clustered and that homeworking can have a significant effect on reducing transmission if all those who can work from home do so.

The Government encourages employers to enable a greater degree of home working, and will strengthen guidance to be very clear that anyone who can work from home should do so. The Government recognises that there are specific reasons why attendance in the workplace may be needed, including mental health issues or concerns; and / or a need to work on-site physically. In sectors where working from home is not possible, including, for example where people’s jobs necessitate working in other people’s homes, people should continue going to work.  “


The government are now stating “As the national restrictions end, the guidance to the clinically extremely vulnerable not to go to work or school will also end. The Government will reintroduce the specific advice for clinically extremely vulnerable people on how they can protect themselves at each tier.” This is not a decision we agree with and certainly in high risk sectors may continue to put vulnerable people at heightened risk.

We will await the further guidance in line with the announcement on Tiers, but we would encourage anyone who is clinically vulnerable or clinically extremely vulnerable to ensure that you have a risk assessment in place.

Leisure Centres

It’s felt a bit like the Hokey Cokey with  Leisure Centres with the government changing their mind almost on a weekly basis as to whether they are safe to open. The government confirmed that last night that leisure services indoor and out are safe to open; provided of course appropriate measures are in place. We will now be seeking talks with the Council to ensure that the wider possible opening of leisure services occurs in Wirral.

Are Domiciliary Care Workers Receiving the Correct Pay?

UNISON recently won a legal case regarding homecare Home Care Case which signals the end of employers denying care staff wages for time spent travelling between visits to the sick and elderly. The full details can be found here

During this case it became clear that the companies they worked for were not scheduling travel  time (when appointments were back to back and some distance apart) or waiting time (when there were big gaps between calls) into the employees working day. The result of this illegal practice was that our members in Harringay (where the case was based) were taking home less than half a legal wage. The care companies involved have been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in backdated earnings to the homecare staff.

Wirral Unison is in the process of surveying our home care members with the intention of raising this unacceptable practice with both the companies delivering services on the Wirral and the Local Authority Commissioner of these services who a responsibility to ensure legal rates of pay are provided.

There are two fundamental questions to consider

  1. Are you paid for travel time? and that means that travel time is included in the rota – no more back to back jobs.
  2. Are you paid for waiting time between calls? The judge in the case that suggested (reasonably) that waiting time of upto one hour is working time and should be paid.

If you answer no to either question, then get in touch.

Political Support for Lifeways Fair Pay Campaign

Hundreds of Lifeways workers employed across the North West are coming together to campaign for appropriate holiday pay – and now over 70 politicians have signed an open letter supporting these courageous key workers.

Lifeways, one of the largest supported living providers in the UK, has been routinely underpaying its care workers when they take holiday. According to UK employment law, annual leave should be based on normal pay received, not just basic pay, and this should include additional payments such as sleep-ins and overtime. As a result, some staff are losing out on £100s per year. The open letter has been signed by a number of councillors in local authorities that commission Lifeways, including Manchester, Lancashire, Liverpool, Bolton, Trafford and Wirral (Cllrs A Jones, T Jones, Norbury, Spoor). It includes Andrew Western, Leader of Trafford Council and Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Councils, as well as Labour Groups Leaders in Bolton and Lancashire. The letter states: 

“Staff employed by Lifeways provide exceptional care to some of our community’s most vulnerable people. They regularly go above and beyond their contracted hours to undertake sleep-ins and work additional hours to support residents. Their passion and dedication has been even more clear during the current COVID-19 crisis.”  

Various MPs across the region, including Paula Barker, Kim Johnson, Navendu Mishra and Andrew Gwynne, are also supporting the call for Lifeways to ensure that all staff receive the appropriate uplift in pay as a matter of urgency and guarantee back-pay for all the time they have been underpaid. Politicians used the open letter to call on Lifeways to treat their staff with dignity and respect, saying: “If Lifeways continue to disrespect its staff, we are concerned that it will lead to increased staff turnover, undermine morale and affect the quality of care given to our vulnerable residents.” Aggrieved staff at Lifeways have worked with UNISON to lodge a collective grievance calling for the appropriate payment of holiday entitlement. Although care workers wish to resolve this matter quickly via agreement, preparations are now underway to pursue a legal claim if a satisfactory outcome cannot be reached.

As always, please do 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

We’ll be back in touch with further updates later this week.

In solidarity!

Your Wirral Unison Team
Central email: unison1@wirral.gov.uk
Telephone: 07899713498 or 07899715085

Published on: November 25, 2020