Cleaners at the Ministry of Justice are to receive sick pay in the event that they have to self-isolate owing to Covid-19.
The decision is a part of a financial support package from the MoJ that has come about after “a prolonged campaign” by trade union United Voices of the World (UVW), which has seen cleaners and security guards employed by FM firm OCS take six days of strike action and two occupations of the Ministry of Justice’s HQ.
OCS staff had to continue cleaning offices at the MoJ in the midst of the pandemic, says the union.
However, UVW claims that successive investigations by journalists revealed that cleaners were unable to self-isolate because of a lack of sick pay and that management at the MoJ and OCS ignored repeated warnings of a lack of personal protective equipment and potential clusters of Covid-19 infections, and that employees who did self-isolate were unlawfully dismissed and their wages deducted.
However, an MoJ spokesperson said: “There is no evidence to suggest there is or ever has been a coronavirus outbreak at Petty France, and we have worked with our contractors to make sure employees have appropriate protection. We hope the fact that OCS colleagues are now able to self-isolate on full pay will provide financial reassurance.”
An OCS spokesperson also told Facilitate: “During the lockdown period, OCS staff at Petty France have been performing their usual tasks as requested by the MoJ. As with every other business across the UK, we have had colleagues in different parts of our business off sick with possible Covid-19 symptoms.
“We have fully complied with Public Health England guidelines in managing the situation, and in all employee guidance. We have also fully complied with the terms and conditions of our contract, and have met all legal requirements. Colleagues with Covid-19 symptoms have been instructed to self-isolate for 14 days and not return to work.
“In such circumstances, for any periods of self-isolation, sick pay has been paid fully in line with the contractual terms and conditions of employment, and government rules. We recognise that for OCS colleagues at MoJ managed sites who are only entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), this has caused some financial concerns.
"We have therefore been working closely with the MoJ to discuss how, with their support, OCS can enhance sick pay rates for this challenging pandemic period, to ensure our colleagues who have already self-isolated will be reimbursed for having done so, and those who may need to can do so with the assurance their financial circumstances will be protected. We are therefore pleased to confirm that, based on support from the MoJ, OCS will pay enhanced sick pay rates to colleagues working at MoJ managed sites for Covid-19 related absences for the period 1 April – 31 July 2020. Payments will be backdated to 1 April 2020.”
The financial support package from MoJ includes:
- Staff who have been unwell or off work due to coronavirus will receive back pay for up to two weeks from 1 April to ensure they are fully compensated.
- MoJ states that it will work closely with all contractors to ensure the staff have protective equipment.
- The MoJ is enabling OCS to offer the proposed scheme by providing a mix of financial and contractual relief. OCS will now guarantee full pay for those who are self-isolating and this will be backdated to 1st April.
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