Sheffield SU staff demand sick pay rights amid coronavirus outbreak

Around 600 workers are affected

Hundreds of staff at the University of Sheffield’s students’ union are calling for more sick pay rights amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The SU’s casual workforce of 600 – many of them students – are lobbying President Jake Verity to introduce statutory sick pay (SSP) over fears the deadly bug could hit Sheffield.

It comes as Covid-19 cases in Britain soared to 273 on Sunday, a hike of 64 in just one day, and the death toll rose to three.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed last week that SSP will be available from day one for workers forced to self-isolate for two weeks, as official guidelines state, after being diagnosed.

But many of Sheffield SU’s staff would not currently be eligible for the benefit as they earn below £118 a week.

Unite, the trade union, staged a protest outside the SU’s building last week calling for bosses to introduce sick pay, end to zero-hours contracts and pay employees the Living Wage of £9.30.

“Unite has repeatedly raised the issue of sick pay, low pay and zero hours with management. Talks on these issues have been constructive but the current policy so far remains unchanged and unfit for the current health crisis,” Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner said.

“We hope management will introduce a good sick pay policy for hundreds of casual staff at Sheffield Students’ Union as a matter of urgency. All other staff are entitled to a good sick pay scheme, guaranteed hours and a real Living Wage.”

It follows a row between the union’s casual workforce and SU officers last year over plans to change their pay from weekly to monthly, which were scrapped after the outrage.

Verity said in a statement that discussions with Unite are ongoing and that he wants to move towards paying the Living Wage.

He added: “Like many organisations across the country we’re currently in the process of planning for all potential impacts of coronavirus. As it stands we’ll be handling any cases on an individual basis, whilst working specifically on how to mitigate any loss of earnings for those who do not qualify for SSP.”