Special paid leave for Covid-related illness and isolation will be scrapped next week for NHS staff in England, it has been announced.
From July 7, staff will revert to normal contractual sick pay arrangements.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the decision was “hugely disappointing” and indicated “how much” the government values its staff.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the changes were part of learning to live with Covid.
It comes as Covid infections and hospital admissions rise, driven by two new, fast-spreading subvariants of Omicron – BA.4 and BA.5.
An estimated 2.3 million people – or one in 30 people – have the virus, a 32% increase from the previous week, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.
Currently, Covid-related sickness absence episodes are fully paid for all NHS workers, regardless of length of service.
But the MRC said the DHSC had announced that sick pay for new episodes of Covid-19 illness would be cut, as would access to special Covid-19 leave for the purpose of self-isolation.
Patricia Marquis, director of RCN England, called the decision “hugely disappointing”, adding that nursing staff face a higher risk of exposure and are therefore disproportionately affected.
“We know that many of our members are suffering from long-term Covid, with negative consequences on their lives, rendering them unable to work,” Ms Marquis said.
“To face the threat of losing the entirety of sick pay if they remain on sick leave because of an illness that some might consider a work hazard, is negligent and unfair.
“This is another indication of how little the UK government values its nurses. »
A DHSC spokesperson said: “As we learn to live with Covid, we are withdrawing the temporary illness guidelines for NHS staff that were put in place at the height of the pandemic, as part of plans to revert to the normal arrangements set out in the NHS Terms and Conditions.
“This provides generous support for NHS staff with up to six months full pay and six months half pay, depending on length of service. »
- coronavirus pandemic
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