FIRST Union is cautioning that the next Covid-19 crisis in workplaces could be looming, as many employers are now forcing workers who need to self-isolate with symptoms or close contact relations to use sick and annual leave for their absences rather than continuing discretionary leave with the Government support available.
“This is a ticking timebomb for the country with winter coming and workers now being made to use up annual and sick leave even when they aren’t necessarily ill or on holiday,” said Ben Peterson, FIRST Union National Retail Organiser.
“The issue is that public health settings have abruptly changed, with less emphasis on stopping the spread of Covid-19, and employers are cutting support for workers who need to self-isolate.”
“Many people who get Covid now are expected to use their sick or annual leave instead of supporting discretionary leave and accessing Government support for workers, which is especially unfair given people may not be ill for the duration of their leave.”
“This is compounded when people need to care for family or isolate due to close contact relations, and cynical employers are seeing it as a chance to drive down staff leave balances.”
“It’s a crisis waiting to happen – flu is expected to flourish in the winter after long periods of empty streets – and employers should be acting pragmatically and in the public interest now to avoid future chaos.”
“We could be looking at massive disruption in essential services if workers do actually get sick later in the year, future waves of Covid-19 spread around the country, or God forbid, people need to take a holiday to avoid burnout after years on the frontlines.”
“We are asking employers to take this duty seriously – allow discretionary leave for self-isolation, access the considerable support that’s available, and treat workers like human beings rather than figures on a spreadsheet.”
“The people we hailed as heroes during the first waves of the pandemic are immediately being put at risk at the first sight of daylight, and it’s totally unnecessary.”