End of free Covid tests will hurt workers, union warns

The end of free testing and self-isolation rules, along with the lack of masks, represents a “triple whammy” to Covid safety in stores, according to Usdaw Shoppers Union.
It comes after the announcement that government ministers plan to halt supplies of coronavirus testing to universities across England, in the first instance of ending mass distribution of free lateral flow test kits before scrapping all the remaining Covid restrictions.

The firm is said to be ‘split’ over its covid strategy and the future of testing, according to reports from the Guardian.

Meanwhile, Usdaw has called for a new deal on statutory sick pay. They are calling for the SSP to be improved “so that it reflects the average wage”, rather than the current £96.35 a week.

In addition, he calls for the SSP for low-wage workers – those earning below the lower earnings limit of £120 a week are currently not eligible for the SSP, and for the government to “commit to paying the SSP from the first day for all absences, deleting any reference to a three-day waiting period”.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, said: “We can see that coronavirus infection and death rates are thankfully down overall, but they are still very high and it is still too early to lift all the Covid security measures. Ending free testing and self-isolation rules will risk more infected people circulating in public and entering stores. Coupled with last month’s unnecessary end to mandatory face coverings in stores, this puts store workers at greater risk of infection.

“More people catching Covid will mean more sickness absence, reduced staffing and disruption to workplaces. Being sick has a huge financial impact on low-wage workers, as too many people are forced to live on statutory sick pay of just £96.35 a week. Unions got SSP from day one for Covid absences during the pandemic. This must continue and be extended to all sickness absence, as well as sick pay reflecting the average wage and available to all workers.

He added: “We are also concerned that charging for the tests will cost the poorest people and the lowest paid workers, particularly if the rumored £100 per test is correct. This is particularly worrying given today’s research, led by the University of Manchester, revealing that the impact of the pandemic on the most deprived areas of England and Wales has been even more pronounced than we thought at first sight.

“Covid-19 is still very present. The Prime Minister appears determined to announce the lifting of all security measures next week, but we hope he will carefully consider the evidence, learn from the lessons of the past and adopt a more cautious approach. We have already seen what happens when so-called “freedoms” come before public health and worker safety. »

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