12 April 2020
By Mary Bermingham
HSE occupational sick pay scheme must immediately be extended to all Section 39 care workers – says Cork TD
HSE occupational sick pay scheme must immediately be extended to all Section 39 care workers including in nursing homes and residential care settings to help fight to save lives of workers and elderly as well as protect the incomes of low paid care workers
“When Covid19 began to spread the government had to quickly accede to the demands for both enhancing the Department of Social Protection Sickness Benefit scheme and also supporting the incomes of workers affected by the shutdown.
“Many of the front line essential workers expected to turn up to work thankfully have occupational sick pay schemes so that if they themself feel even an inkling of symptoms or come into contact with those who do they can take the necessary time off work on full pay to recover or self isolate.
“However I want to highlight here a glaring exception that the government and HSE must address forthwith. Most of our nursing homes and residential institutions for vulnerable adults are publicly funded but effectively privately run. These so called ‘Section 39’ workplaces do not as a rule have proper occupational sick pay schemes in place. Typically the care workers in these places are low paid and now face an intolerable two-fold pressure of facing high risk of coming into contact with the virus and being compelled to self-isolate but in doing so being only able to avail of the Covid 19 sickness benefit scheme.
“It’s a scandal that low paid workers who are putting themselves on the frontline in the fight against Covid 19 face having their income effectively cut in half by either contracting the virus or having to self isolate.
“We need to remove any economic considerations for workers in this position when it comes to their health and that of the vulnerable people in their care. The Government and HSE must forthwith underwrite an occupational sickness benefit scheme for this sector. I think it is frankly incredible that this has not already been done given that our nursing homes in particular are the greatest sources of Covid19 clusters and Covid19 mortality.”