Full self-isolation pay for all is a vital safety issue – no exceptions

Millions of us, including in the NHS and social care, are precariously employed with no ordinary rights to paid leave. If low paid workers get Coronavirus symptoms or a member or their family get Coronavirus symptoms, or they get a call from track-and-trace, then many will not be able to afford to follow public health advice to self-isolate. This is a problem not just for these workers but for the entire workforce and the people we serve. To slow the spread of COVID19 all workers need the right to follow public health advice without suffering financial hardship; all workers need guaranteed full sick and isolation pay.

The government knows that the lack of workers rights is a major public health risk. In early March, the Department of Health and Social Care recognised that workers rights to full paid leave to follow public health advice is “essential” for “infection control purposes”. They instructed NHS Trusts to ensure all workers, included those working for outsourced companies, with duties in NHS buildings have rights to full paid leave if they need to isolate. They did not extend this to care homes resulting or other parts of the economy. But if it is essential in the NHS then it is essential for all of us going about our duties at this time: food production and distribution, transport, logistics, delivery, social care, utilities, manufacturing and the large numbers of security and cleaning staff who work alongside us in all sectors.

The degrading of workers rights over may decades has allowed a few very rich individuals to profit at our expense. Privatisation and outsourcing have not only turned public services into opportunities for private profiteering, but also have fractured and broken trade union organisation, atomising workers and making it more difficult to fight back. We have lived through a long period of gradual defeats for our class and it has left us ill-prepared to deal with this crisis.

In the last few weeks, through workers’ solidarity and collective action, many workers have won full sick and self isolation pay for all. In the NHS, London Underground and elsewhere, we are winning safer workplaces and improved workers’ rights for all. In May the government announced a £600 million “infection control fund” for carehomes which is supposed to ensure isolation pay for careworkers. We are unsure that this money is reaching the front line and are campaigning to ensure that it does.

Beyond the pandemic we want to build on these successes and ensure that when this pandemic is over, we retain the rights we have won and have stronger trade union organisation to win further gains for all.

Join a union. Fight the bosses. Stay safe and look after one another. No going back.