Safe and Equal have received confirmation that frontline workers operating NHS Test and Trace are employed on zero hours contracts and have no rights to company sick pay. We are working with Labour MPs to investigate further. This is the correspondence between Emily Thornberry MP and G4S.
105 Victoria Street,
Dear Mr Almanza
On 10th November the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee heard that “All the evidence shows that people are not complying with isolation not because they don’t want to but because they find it very difficult. The need to keep earning and to be able to feed your family is a fundamental element of it.”
In July this year, the Vivaldi study into deaths in care homes that found that there is a higher risk of infection in workplaces where workers are employed on zero hours contracts and without sick pay entitlement.
We have received reports that there are G4S workers operating as part of NHS Test and Trace who are employed on zero hours contracts and without occupational sick pay entitlement.
If these workers develop Coronavirus symptoms, many would not qualify for the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment and would be forced to choose between extreme financial hardship and or continuing to attend work breaching isolation rules. If these reports are true then not only are these workers under enormous pressure to breach isolation rules, but they are also disincentivised from getting tested themselves. This undermines the Test and Trace system and creates a situation where Test and Trace itself is a potential source of significant Coronavirus outbreaks.
In March, the Department of Health and Social Care issued instructions that all outsourced workers in the NHS, must be entitled to isolate on full pay stating this was an essential infection control measure. NHS providers had to scramble to organise agreements with their subcontractors, including G4S. Please could you confirm what, if any, arrangements are in place to ensure G4S workers operating under the Test and Trace brand are offered adequate job protection and full occupational sick pay should they need to isolate?
Safe and Equal Campaign
Dear Ms Thornberry,
Thank you for your letter to our CEO Ashley Almanza which we received on 23 February, on behalf of the Safe and Equal campaign. As HR Director for the UK I am responding on Mr Almanza’s behalf.
First I would like to reassure you that G4S treats the health and safety of our employees in all of our COVID-19 testing sites as our top priority. All staff have the opportunity to raise any concerns they have through a number of channels. On the rare occasion of an issue being raised then this would result in a swift investigation being undertaken. Any remedial steps identified would then be implemented without delay.
Due to the unpredictable and, so far, short term requirements of these contracts, most of the staff operating at the COVID -19 testing sites are agency workers provided to G4S, supplied and employed through a number of temporary employment agencies. For the remaining staff (namely management and security staff), these individuals are engaged on fixed term contracts or casual worker agreements (flexible hours contracts where staff choose which hours/shifts they work).
In the circumstance of employees of G4S needing to self-isolate for reasons of exposure to COVID-19, in line with Government guidance, these staff would receive company sick pay or statutory sick pay. This depends on arrangements in their employment contracts.
In the event of an individual testing positive for COVID19, only the individual affected must stand down, unless others are notified by Test and Trace or as a result of subsequent positive test results or experienced symptoms. This is the approach that our customer (HM Government) is directing us to take – that such absences should be as sick leave and paid in accordance with their contractual entitlements. In this regard, our employees and agency staff are not being treated any differently to any other employees working on public sector accounts in England, should someone need to isolate due to contact at work.
G4S prides itself on being a trusted partner to the UK Government during these unprecedented times. The health and safety of our colleagues and customers is paramount to G4S as we tackle COVID19 challenges. If you have further questions regarding any of our public sector contracts please do contact me directly.
HR Director, UK and Middle East