Ambulance worker on £95 a week after 'catching Covid at work'

Two drivers who worked for ERS Medical have spoken out about their time there. Photo: Rui Vieira/PA

An ambulance care assistant at ERS Medical has spoken out about the inadequacies of supporting a family on SSP - Credit: PA

A private ambulance worker moving Covid patients has said it "doesn't seem right" staff only receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they catch the virus while doing their job.

The ambulance care assistant, who works for ERS Medical in Norwich but does not want to be named, lost more than £800 in a month after contracting Covid because they were only entitled to £95.85 a week through SSP.

Their partner said this caused serious hardship for the couple and their three children, who for that month faced a choice of "either eating or paying the rent" while both parents were off work.

ERS Medical is a patient transport service and is commissioned to work for the NHS by the Clinical Commissioning Group.

Nigel Briggs, the company's senior operations manager, said he was "deeply saddened" to hear a staff member felt this way, and that all staff receive sick pay in line with their contract's T&Cs. 

"We would welcome the opportunity to have a one-to-one discussion with the staff member so we can address and lessen their concerns," he said.

Sam Older, UNISON regional organiser, said private ambulance workers put in harm's way shouldn't be forced to survive on £95 a week if they catch Covid or repeatedly have to self-isolate.

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“Unfortunately, some employers and healthcare commissioners are shirking their responsibilities to their staff and the wider public," he said.

"It’s essential that private ambulance staff get full sick pay to keep themselves, their patients and their families safe.”

According to ERS Medical's T&Cs, employees receive a full month's pay and one month's half pay for sickness only in their third year of employment.

The staff member in question, who receives £8.80 an hour and has worked there for two years, said while the company was acting lawfully it was nevertheless a poor way to treat staff.

The Unison organised lobby at County Hall against cuts in adult social care services.Photo by Simon

UNISON have been outspoken during the pandemic about private care workers receiving full sick pay if they catch Covid or are forced to self isolate - Credit: Archant Norfolk

They said: "I assumed my workplace would take care of me if we picked up the virus through work, especially if at the time we were wearing a lower level of PPE because we'd been told the patient didn't have Covid."

ERS Medical said its Norfolk team transport nearly 17 Covid-positive patients daily, but that staff are advised to wear full PPE at all times due to the ongoing risk of errors and omissions through bookings by external agencies.

It added that all necessary precautions are followed on the "rare occasions" staff have been informed, post-transportation, that a patient was Covid-positive.