CARE home workers in Glasgow have told how they are “scared to get tested” for Covid-19 because taking time off work could force them into debt.

The Glasgow Times understand that at least 10 privately run homes in the city have told employees they are only entitled to the minimum, statutory sick pay (SSP), which works out at around £94 a week.

It comes as a major poll of care workers in the private sector in Scotland found two-thirds are worried about testing positive for coronavirus because they cannot afford to take time off work.

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One Glasgow care home worker told us that staff are “scared to get tested”. The worker was shocked to find that after testing positive for Covid-19 and isolating for 11 days, they would only be paid £94 with SSP.

They said three residents had already died of Covid-19 in the home and told us: “The morale of the staff is at an all-time low. 

“They are working very hard to deal with deaths, illness and on top of this the financial burden. 

“I was told I could only get SSP or borrow against future earnings. I couldn’t take annual leave as it was ‘cancelled’ in April. 

“I’m already paid so low that I put myself into debt just doing the mandatory isolation period, from a disease I got at work.” 

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Symptomatic care home staff are already being tested, and enhanced outbreak investigation is also being undertaken in all care homes with positive cases. 

This involves testing of all residents and staff, whether or not they have symptoms, subject to their consent.

The Scottish Government has said it is providing financial assistance where applicable on individual contracts.

The staff added: “Finding out they aren’t getting paid, staff have said to me if they are asymptomatic they don’t want to get tested, and I know staff who are refusing to get tested because they just cannot afford to take time off. 

“I’ve been in the sector on and off for 30 years. It’s the only job I’ve wanted to do, I’ve loved it. I’ve never been treated like this before.

“I still feel that I’m suffering. I wanted some compassion. We’re left totally helpless.”

GMB Scotland carried out the survey, which had more than 600 responses from care workers in the private care sector. 

Results confirm 78 per cent are worried about taking a test for fear of testing positive and having to take time off, losing money, and only 30 per cent of respondents had been tested for Covid-19. 

Ninety-six per cent of workers will not receive full pay from their employer if they are off with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, with many only receiving SSP.

Gary Smith, Scotland secretary for GMB Union, said care workers are left paying a “terrible price” for the coronavirus crisis. 

He said: “When the roll-out of ‘whole home testing’ reaches a majority of homes and regions in Scotland, and covers asymptomatic as well as symptomatic staff, what exactly do the Scottish Government think is going to happen? 

“We knew the underlying challenges in care before the crisis. 

“We knew the threat of this virus in January. 

“Now, low-paid workers who cannot afford to live on SSP will be working asymptomatically or otherwise, and terrified of contracting this virus and taking it back to their families. 

Glasgow Times: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“A testing regime that does not go hand in hand with full sick pay is undermined from the start. 

“We desperately needed a national plan for social care. 

“Instead, our social care workers are paying a terrible price for the failure of government to get a comprehensive PPE, testing and staffing strategy in place from the outset of this crisis.”

Deborah Clarke, head of community for Unison Scotland, said unions have been raising the need for occupational sick pay for private care workers with the Scottish Government since the beginning of the pandemic. 

She said it has yet to be addressed, resulting in “devastating consequences”.

She added: “It’s really important to note that we made the government aware right at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic that care workers, particularly in the private sector, if they contracted Covid-19 would only be able to get statutory sick pay, as there is no occupational sick pay. That means workers earning, on average, £400 a week are dropping down to £95 a week. 

“We made the government aware, they said that they would address it and they haven’t done so. 

“What that has done is force low-paid care workers to conceal symptoms and attend work – and we all know the devastating consequences of that. 

“In an interview on Friday, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said she was only aware of the problem on May 7. 

“Now that simply isn’t correct. She has known about it for some time. The unions have raised it with her on a regular basis. 

“Scottish Care and the care home providers have very publicly said they will not pay it unless the government funds it. 

“We are in a very serious situation here, where vulnerable low-paid care workers are being forced to go to work because the Scottish Government and the providers aren’t able to fix a right that a good care worker should have, and that is a right to occupational sick pay.”

National Records of Scotland released data showing that 1438 of the 3213 deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland up to May 10 have been in care homes. 

Health Protection Scotland said that in some cases there may be “an unavoidable delay” in finding cover for staff who have tested positive for the virus.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Care said it is working on “finding a solution” to paying staff in full if they contract the virus.

She said:“Scottish Care has been raising the need to pay care workers their full wage if taking time off work because of Covid-19 and have a meeting scheduled with Cosla officials and the Scottish Government early this week to find a solution.

“Care providers in Scotland want to be able to fully support care workers who are going above and beyond to tackle the coronavirus crisis so are calling for additional funding to be made available to support care staff to take the time off from work that they need to ensure that both their colleagues and those accessing care and support are kept safe and well. 

“Any alternative risks grave consequences and could affect the care worker’s professional registration.”

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A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The safety of residents and staff in care homes is an absolute priority.

“No social care workers should avoid testing – and anyone who develops symptoms of Covid-19 must self-isolate and must be supported by their employer to do so, as per Health Protection Scotland guidance.

“Workers experiencing financial hardship is of real concern. 

“The Scottish Government has agreed with Cosla to meet additional costs incurred through Covid-19, and this includes payment to third-sector and independent care providers working on local government contracts in order for them to pay sick-pay, in line with terms and conditions, to all staff who are off work ill or because they are self-isolating.”