Union claims Edinburgh sick pay rules are putting staff and public at risk over coronavirus

Temporary staff driven to work when they should be self-isolating

Agency staff employed on refuse collection are among those affected

CITY council bosses have been accused of putting both staff and members of the public at risk by failing to guarantee the pay of temporary and agency workers if they need to self-isolate because of coronavirus.

The Unite union says the current policy means permanent staff who stay off work because they or a family member have Covid-19 symptoms will continue to receive full pay - but any temporary or agency staff in the same situation will only get statutory sick pay (SSP) of £95 a week.

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And the union says that could drive them to continue working when they shouldn’t, just to make ends meet.

Unite branch convener Craig Cummings said: “Members have reported they would be unable to feed their families on SSP alone, leaving them with the difficult choice of putting food on the table or risking public health as a whole.”

Those affected include agency staff employed in refuse collection, many of whom have worked for the council for years.

“These are not staff just coming and going over a couple of weeks,” said Mr Cummings. “They would probably consider themselves permanent members of staff because of the time they have worked there.”

Unite has called on Edinburgh to follow Glasgow council’s example and treat agency, zero-hours contract staff and those working for arms-length organisations on the same basis as permanent staff.

Mr Cummings said the council had agreed supply teachers would receive full pay if they were off, but not other temporary staff.

“This does not just present a risk to our members but a risk to public health in general,” he said. “Edinburgh council has the option to mitigate this risk just as Glasgow council has.”

The council pointed to a recent agreement reached by local authority umbrella body Cosla which says sessional and supply staff would be paid when self-isolating, but it does not apply agency or temporary workers.

Council leader Adam McVey said: “We recognise the valuable contribution that supply and casual workers make to the council and continue to make during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We are committed to fair work principles and have already been paying staff for already committed work.

“We will be fully implementing the new national arrangements that were agreed by council leaders at Cosla, and we’re already working to implement the national agreement recently reached for supply teachers.”

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