This page is for care workers, including residential, homecare and community care for both adults and children. It provides advice in relation to COVID-19.
Spotting issues during the crisis: your help needed
If you become aware of a workplace problem in a social care setting, related to the coronavirus outbreak, email us with a short summary here: firstname.lastname@example.org
- My employer says I have to get the vaccine as a condition of employment, can they do this?
- Should I be paid for periods of self-isolation?
- What should I do if my employer has not provided me with the correct personal protective equipment?
- What should you do if you have concerns about the welfare of your service users?
- I am a Black care worker, concerned about the increased risk I face from the virus. What should I do?
My employer says I have to get the vaccine as a condition of employment, can they do this?
UNISON supports vaccination in social care. The vaccine is safe and we have encouraged all members who do not have a medical exemption to get the jab.
But vaccination should be your decision and the UK government should promote persuasion and reassurance, not forced vaccination.
That is why UNISON campaigned so hard against mandatory vaccination in English care homes (introduced in November 2020) and got this policy removed.
The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have all explicitly said they will not introduce mandatory vaccination for care home workers, working in those countries. In Northern Ireland, changes are currently subject to consultation.
For further information for reps and branches on the vaccination status requirements for other workers who visit CQC-registered care homes, see our bargaining guidance and model COVID-19 vaccination policy for care homes. This will also be subject to revision soon.
Should I be paid for periods of self-isolation?
UNISON believes all care staff who need to self-isolate should be on full normal wages for that period. This is an issue UNISON has done a significant amount of campaigning on. For much of the pandemic, employers were able to draw money from the Infection Control Fund (ICF) to support paying full wages for self-isolation. However, on 31st March 2022, the government took the highly controversial decision to remove this funding. You can read UNISON’s response to this development here.
Notwithstanding the removal of the ICF, UNISON still maintains that all care employers have a responsibility to pay full normal wages for self-isolation. It is not right to put care workers under significant financial pressure to attend work when they should be self-isolating. Not paying sick pay is irresponsible and risks further outbreaks of Coronavirus in care settings.
Government’s official advice to care employers and workers is to isolate if they are Covid-19 positive.
If you are affected by this issue and you are a UNISON member, you should raise the matter with your UNISON branch. You can find the contact details of your UNISON branch using this tool: https://branches.unison.org.uk
Your UNISON branch should be able to support you to raise this with your employer.
It is worth noting that Under health and safety law, your employer must carry out a risk assessment. Your employer’s health and safety risk assessment should identify hazards and what measures need to be in place to reduce the risk of harm to patients and staff. The DHSC’s Infection Prevention and Control guidance recognises measures such as not coming to work when ill, advising people to isolate while infectious and recognising and reporting infections promptly, all help to prevent infections spreading at work.
What should I do if my employer has not provided me with the correct personal protective equipment?
If you believe that your employer is not providing the necessary PPE, report this to your workplace rep and/or your branch in the first instance. UNISON will raise this with your employer and challenge them to provide the required equipment. Please also report this as an issue to email@example.com.
Social care providers in England can report PPE shortages to the National Supply Disruption Service (NSDR)
- The NSDR phone number is: 0800 915 9964
- The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org(Emails will be answered within one hour)
Currently, this is for employers in England only to use. You or your UNISON rep may wish to encourage the employer to use the service. We are seeking clarification on whether or not employees can report issues directly to the NSDR and we will update this advice as soon as we have this information.
In Scotland, UNISON have raised the availability of PPE with the Scottish Government.
What should you do if you have concerns about the welfare of your service users?
Each local authority has a local safeguarding team who should ensure this does not happen, and if it does, challenge providers where it occurs. You should report any concerns about the welfare of service users to the local authority safeguarding team, whose contact details will be available on the local authority website.
Our local government team are working to ensure councils make sure all care workers get the details of who to contact if they have welfare concerns.
If you continue you to be concerned about inaction you can also contact the Care Quality Commission.
I am a Black care worker, concerned about the increased risk I face from the virus. What should I do?
It took too long, but the government eventually published the “Adult Social Care Risk Reduction Framework: Assessing and reducing the risk to your workforce”. This document sets out the risk assessment process that employers should be following in order to managed increased risks to workers with protected characteristics, including ethnicity. You employer should be following these procedures to manage the risk to Black workers.
If you have concerns about the behaviour of your employer, you should contact UNISON. You can email us at email@example.com or find your UNISON branch here.
UNISON continues to campaign hard to force the government and employers to do more to protect Black workers from the virus. The pandemic has brought home just how many front line care employees are from Black communities.
We know Black workers have suffered a heavy toll and need better protecting now.
Those who sadly pass away as result of contracting the virus will be offered indefinite leave to remain.
Where to find help from UNISON
Or, if you can’t get through to the branch, contact your regional office
If you’re experiencing financial and emotional difficulties contact our welfare charity, There for You