UK: Cleaners face exposure to the coronavirus; employers not providing necessary pay to allow them to stop working & self-isolate if they fall ill
“'My job is to kill germs’: how the UK’s cleaners are being left to fight coronavirus alone.”
… [A]s coronavirus spreads across the UK, the almost invisible army of cleaners who do this work are finding themselves impossibly compromised.
Low-paid, outsourced and often working on part-time, casual contracts, cleaners are concerned that not only do they face exposure to the coronavirus, but that they won’t be able to stop working if they fall ill or need to self-isolate.
Cleaning companies, from small service agencies to big government contractors, are not giving their workers the clarity, or necessary pay, to incentivise them to take time off if they are exposed to the virus.
Although the government has extended statutory sick pay to be paid from day one of sick leave, and for those self-isolating without symptoms, this is still only £94.25 per week, and it is only available to those earning at least £118 a week.
Lower-paid workers on part-time or zero-hours contracts and self-employed workers who don’t qualify have limited options.
… [M]any cleaners feel unable to take time off, even if they should. The consequence of this is that in workplaces such as hospitals and GP surgeries, where vulnerable people are exposed, people who should be self-isolating may have no choice but to attend.
Working for the government contractor Sodexo, Alfredo [said] ‘Obviously I have to be professional and forget about it [the risk of contracting coronavirus] because as dangerous as it may be, the reality is that I won’t get paid and I won’t be able to provide for my family if I take days off. I have to forget about it and continue my work as usual, regardless of the outside situation.’
A Sodexo spokesperson said: ‘Patient safety is our top priority for our cleaning contracts in hospitals. We have clear infection control policies and procedures in place. We do not expect staff who are unwell to come to work and staff suspected of being unwell are kept from any contact with patients or sent home.’