COVID-19 sick pay arrangements for nurses to be withdrawn
As NHS staff revert to normal sick pay, nurse leaders say government is not supporting those with long-COVID and endangering health workers’ financial stability
Nurses say that the decision to end COVID-19 sick pay for NHS staff is a ‘slap in the face’ for those experiencing long-COVID and risks making staffing shortages even worse.
Special sick leave provisions for NHS staff with COVID-19 were introduced during the pandemic and meant nurses were entitled to full pay throughout their illness, regardless of length of service.
Special sick pay support revoked in UK countries
However, these measures will be withdrawn in England on 7 July meaning some nurses unable to work due to long-COVID could see sick pay end abruptly.
From 1 September, all those already receiving COVID-19 sick pay will return to their normal sick pay arrangements. Special leave for self-isolation will also come to an end from Thursday.
However, employers do not have to follow the guidance – or guidelines on supporting staff with long-COVID – with fears this could lead to a postcode lottery in support.
COVID-19 sick pay arrangements in the four UK nations
England: The special sickness policy will be withdrawn from 7 July with all staff returning to contractual sick pay arrangements from 1 September. NHS employers are required to meet affected staff one-to-one before 3 August to explain and discuss the changes
Scotland: Special leave provisions end on 31 August and will be replaced with normal terms and conditions from 1 September
Wales: As of 1 July, sick pay for those with COVID-19 depends on how long someone has been off sick and length of service. Those who became ill before 1 July can claim full pay for up to a year, moving to half pay based on their contractual entitlement. Employers are encouraged to consider sick pay arrangements for staff with long-COVID on a case-by-case basis
Northern Ireland: Changes to COVID-19 sick pay for NHS staff are expected to be announced imminently
Taking away financial security for NHS staff
The Long Covid Nurses and Midwives (LCNM) UK campaign group claimed some nurses in England had already been told their sick pay would stop from 7 July.
‘These changes take away the financial security for thousands of NHS staff with long-COVID and are considered a slap in the face by those who worked selflessly on the front line throughout the pandemic, often without adequate PPE,’ said a statement by LCNM chair Alison Twycross.
LCNM estimates about 14,600 registered nurses and 7,800 nursing support staff in England have been affected by long-COVID.
‘Losing even a proportion of these staff from the workforce will have a devastating effect on an already decimated workforce,’ added Dr Twycross.
Sick pay decision is ‘hugely disappointing’
RCN England director Patricia Marquis said the decision to end COVID-19 sick pay was hugely disappointing.
‘We know many of our members are suffering from long-COVID with their lives adversely affected, making them unable to work,’ she said.
‘Facing the threat of losing full sick pay should they remain off sick from a condition some could argue is an occupational hazard is neglectful and unfair.’
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘As we learn to live with COVID, we are withdrawing the temporary NHS staff sickness guidance that was put in place at the height of the pandemic as part of plans to move back to the normal arrangements set out in the NHS terms and conditions.
‘This provides generous support for NHS staff with up to six months full pay and six months half pay, depending on length of service.’
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