Note: on 22.10.2020 BRHUT revised their answer (see comments section below). We are unsure if this was due to pressure from Safe and Equal supporters or if the original email contained an error. In any case, we continue to encourage supporters to make FOI requests of their local NHS Trusts to ensure they are complying with instructions to pay outsourced workers and bank staff full sick and isolation pay.
A Freedom of Information request from Safe and Equal supporters at Redbridge Trades Council has found that Barking, Redbridge and Havering University Hospitals NHS Trust (BRHUT) is in breach of government instructions to ensure all healthcare staff have rights to full sick and isolation pay.
Bank staff working at the Trust, which includes King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay at £95.85 a week if they have to isolate following public health guidance. On 27th March, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHS England and NHS Improvement, Public Health England (PHE), Health Education England and NHS Employers put out a joint statement: “It is essential for infection control purposes that staff members who are told to self-isolate, do so as quickly as possible. NHS England and NHS Improvement wrote to chief executives on 2 March 2020, stating staff should receive full pay whilst in self-isolation. This includes bank staff and sub-contractors, who have to be physically present at an NHS facility to carry out their duties.”
DHSC understood at the beginning of the pandemic that the miserly £95.85 a week SSP would create a financial pressure that would drive staff into work when they should be isolating, potentially infecting other workers and vulnerable patients. By refusing to implement this instruction, BRHUT are failing in their duty of care to patients and their health and safety duty to staff, to take all reasonable measures to reduce the risk of infection upon Trust premises.
This admission that the Trust is breaking DHSC rules for bank workers raises questions about the provision of full sick and isolation pay for outsourced workers: the many domestics, porters, security, maintenance and other essential staff who keep our NHS running. It also suggests there may be other Trusts breaking the rules and letting pre-Covid norms of poverty pay, zero hour contracts and no sick pay continue despite knowing this increases the risk of infection. One study found 12.5% of Coronavirus patients contracted the disease in hospital. BRHUT bosses have admitted to a “small number of outbreaks” within their hospitals. How many of these hospital-acquired infections were caused by keyworkers who can not afford to take time off to isolate because their employer denies them full sick and isolation pay.
Safe and Equal campaign are calling on supporters to follow the lead of Redbridge Trades Council, submit your own FOI request to local hospital trusts and build pressure to ensure all NHS staff are receiving full sick and isolation pay.
Model FoI request:
I would like to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
As is widely acknowledged within the NHS (https://www.nhsemployers.org/covid19/staff-terms-and-conditions/self-isolation), it is essential for infection control purposes that workers within NHS premises experience no financial pressure to attend work when they should be isolating following public health advice. This is especially important when some Covid-19 symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell, are invisible and many people who should be isolating, and are potentially infectious, are asymptomatic.
Please can you
- Confirm that the Trust is fully compliant with the instructions issued by NHS England and NHS Improvement on 2nd March 2020 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.”
- Explain the arrangements that you have with your subcontractors for paying outsourced workers full sick or isolation pay should they need to isolate following public health advice
- Explain how this right to full sick or isolation pay has been communicated to all workers with duties on Trust premises.
Please let us know what responses you get to this query and we will publish the results.