Covid-19: Unite CEC branch demands equal treatment for agency, zero-hour contract and arms length organisations’ staff during pandemic

Forcing some workers to rely on statutory sick pay is a risk to all—and deeply unfair

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Unite has requested that the City of Edinburgh Council follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and treats agency, ALEOs and zero hours contract staff equally during COVID-19.

Concerns had been raised by our members, both on permanent and temporary contracts, that a permanent member of staff will be protected financially if they need to self-isolate or shield according to UK government advice. However, the same financial protection is not been offered to temporary and agency staff, creating a financial disincentive for this staff group to exclude themselves from the workplace should they need to. For example, agency staff brought in to cover staff absence, such as in refuse collection, are paid only statutory sick pay (SSP)—£95.85 per week—if they have to self isolate or shield, whereas permanent colleagues are paid their contractual entitlement for sick pay.

Similarly, zero-hour or session staff, many of whom have worked for the Council, in children’s services and other services for years, will only receive statutory sick pay. This increases risk for all members of that workforce. If an agency worker has come into contact with someone with COVID-19 symptoms, the government advice is clear—they should self isolate for 14 days—however our agency, session and ALEO members have reported they would be unable to feed their families on SSP alone, leaving them with the difficult choice of putting food on the table or risking public health as a whole.

Unite CEC branch has called upon the City of Edinburgh Council to remove this difficult choice from our members in these categories and to remove this risk to the permanent work force, just as Glasgow Council has already done. Glasgow Council agreed to pay all temporary staff in line with permanent staff and in line with The Agency Workers Regulations 2010.  The First Minister has also called for all agency staff to be treated the same in the Joint Statement with the STUC published earlier this month.

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