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Two care workers with long Covid relying on foodbanks after council cuts their pay due to absences

by our industrial reporter @TrinderMatt

TWO committed care workers are relying on foodbanks to survive after their council stopped paying them due to absences caused by long Covid, the Unite union revealed today.

The Bedford Borough Council employees contracted coronavirus at the end of 2020 during an outbreak at their workplace, in which about of third of the staff went down with the virus.

Both have been off sick ever since with a diagnosis of long Covid, a poorly understood condition that can cause chronic tiredness, brain fog and memory loss.

Unite called on council bosses to put its two members on full sick pay while they recover, a discretion that is allowed under the Green Book national agreement.

The union stressed that the case also raises issues for other workplaces nationwide as the extent of the problem becomes clearer. 

Unite regional officer Richard Gates said: “We will not allow this heartless treatment of our members to stand, as they are being penalised for becoming sick after years of dedicated service.

“The impact of long Covid has resulted in both members having days when they can’t even get out of bed, brain fog, no energy and breathlessness, so the last thing they need is the stress of having no money and the prospect of being taken through the sickness absence procedure.

“They have worked for the council for many years — and in one case for nearly 30 years. It is not right that they are relying on foodbanks and benefits to survive.

“The impact of long Covid on employees is going to be a growing issue in 2022 and Unite will be fighting to ensure our members don’t pay the price of this terrible disease, through no fault of their own, whether it is losing income or even possibly their jobs.”

A council spokesperson told the Morning Star that it was “unable to comment on specific cases” but added: “The council’s policy not to extend sickness pay is to ensure fairness and consistency at all times in managing cases of sickness absence, regardless of the reason.

“Long Covid cases are managed with sensitivity, taking into account the medical evidence, advice from occupational health and speaking with the employee.”

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