We are the workers that will keep going through this pandemic. Together we can take action for safer workplaces.
What we have done so far
On Monday 16th March mental health nurses, doctors, social workers, admin and cleaners in East London, emailed the chief executive seeking assurances that all workers operating in NHS premises would be entitled to full paid leave, where necessary, to comply with the government’s public health advice to self-isolate for the safety of others.
Without this assurance many of these workers, who are often some of the lowest paid, will be forced into an impossible situation. If they or their family develop a cough or fever, they will be forced to either follow government advice to self-isolate and face very rapid and severe financial hardship, or continue to work and risk infecting colleagues and the patient population with this potentially deadly virus. The government has said Statutory Sick Pay is available but this is paid at £94.25 a week, less than a third of the take home pay.
It seems almost inevitable that the immense financial pressure will mean at least some workers are unable to comply with guidance and this creates a serious health and safety risk for all NHS workers and patients.
By Thursday 19th March we still had not heard back from our managers, however, by this time we had discovered that the provision we had asked for already existed buried deep in a policy document. The problem is that it appears no effort had been made to inform staff and crucially staff most effected. Despite requesting that this effort was made urgently, no response was forthcoming. We have now taken steps to ensure posters are displayed throughout the hospital as a basic infection control and health and safety measure and continue to request seek urgent action.
On Friday 20th March we discovered a leaked letter from NHS England to all NHS Trusts dated 2.3.20. Contained within this letter is the provision we have been asking for. On page three it instructs NHS employers to:
“Ensure that any member of staff, including bank staff and sub-contractors,
who has to be physically present at an NHS facility to carry out their duties,
receives full pay for any period in which they are required to self-isolate as
a result of public health advice.” (p3, COVID-19 NHS preparedness and response, 2.3.20)
This provision is necessary but it will only be effective as an infection control measure if essential workers on zero hours contracts who will be working in the NHS through the shutdown are aware that it exists. We are calling on NHS employers to loudly and publically make this policy known.
We stand in solidarity with all the workers who will keep going through the shutdown providing essential services. We will continue to discuss, organise and take all steps necessary to minimise the risks of infection.
What you can do if you are a healthworker:
- If you are a healthworker, write to your Chief Executive asking what has been done to implement this policy.
- Write to your trade union and ask them to publicise this policy.
- Display this poster around your hospital site or design your own. As nurses, doctors, pharmacists, cleaners and other workers we all have an interest in reducing the risks of infection to absolute minimum. Each day that passes without any action from management, increases the risks. These posters are an easy way to reduce that risk by ensuring everyone knows their rights. The more NHS workers take this action, the sooner we will get a response from the top.
- If you are a healthcare professional you have duty to escalate concerns about public and patient safety. So escalate without delay!
- Share social media content: twitter.com/C19NHS
- Get in touch and let us know what is happening in your Trust. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are not a healthworker:
- Speak to healthworkers about the issue. Ask them to follow the plan above.
- Do all you can to broadcast information about this via social media. The more people that know, the more we can slow the spread of COVID19 through the NHS.