Third covid-19 lockdown follows new vaccination fear for agency workers

Contractors entering a third national lockdown risk falling through financial and now medical gaps in covid-19 support, as agency workers appear behind staff in the vaccination queue.

So despite working in the NHS on the same frontlines as full-time staff, agency workers are not being included in the lists to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, says the REC.

The staffing group told care minister Helen Whately that agency workers at both NHS trusts and care homes are hearing they will not receive the vaccine in the same way as regular staff.

'Need for speed'

In a letter to the minister, the REC leaves open the possibility that agencies will be left to provide the vaccine, the need for which the group says another lockdown accelerates.

“This decision [by the government to enter a third lockdown in England] has underlined the need for speed in the vaccine programme,” said REC’s chief executive Neil Carberry.

Speaking yesterday, but alluding to the December 22nd letter, he added: “Agency staff in hospitals and care homes fell through the cracks when it came to the provision of PPE.

“The same must not be allowed to happen for the vaccine. Frontline workers need to be protected, no matter what type of contract they’re on.”

'Contract staff are crucial in helping the NHS'

Asked if IT contractors on NHS frontlines via agencies were among those reporting that they face unequal access to the vaccine, the REC yesterday said that, at this stage, they were not.

However, technology is just one sector which is vital in the lockdown, and such vital workers shouldn’t go without due to their status, believes REC’s deputy CEO Kate Shoesmith.

She told ContractorUK last night: “We are in another worrying phase of the pandemic, and temporary and contract staff are crucial in helping the NHS, logistics, education and other key services cope.

“These individuals deserve protection via the vaccine on an equal footing to permanent staff.”

'Catastrophic'

But an equal footing is not what contractors have been on with the government’s financial support during the pandemic. 

“This [new] lockdown could prove catastrophic for millions of freelancers, contractors and self-employed workers,” Qdos chief executive Seb Maley warned yesterday.

“That is -- unless the government steps in and provides ‘the excluded’ with the support they desperately need.”

'Still nothing for PSC directors'

Another status adviser Rebecca Seeley Harris confirmed: “We have gone into another lockdown [and] the government has announced more grants for leisure and hospitality, furloughs for the employees, and SEISS for the self-employed. This is fantastic but, [there is] still nothing for the limited company director.”

Boss at ReLegal Consulting, Seeley Harris said that reassuringly for PSCs, the Directors’ Income Support Scheme was “apparently” now being “seriously considered” by HM Treasury.

“They should not let ‘the perfect be the enemy of the good,’” she said of the deliberating officials. “[They must] make a decision to adopt it now before it is too late for a lot of these businesses.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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