Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Harriet Grant

MoJ cleaners to get full sick pay backdated to start of Covid-19 pandemic

Ministry of Justice
In May, the Guardian reported that Emanuel Gomes, an MoJ cleaner, fell ill and died hours after his shift. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA

The Ministry of Justice has announced that cleaners in its central London offices will now receive full pay if they are self-isolating or off sick. The arrangement, which will be administered through cleaning agency OCS, also provides back pay for cleaners who were sick or self-isolating after 1 April.

The announcement follows Guardian reports in June that the MoJ failed to investigate a potential Covid-19 cluster among its cleaners. The cleaners’ union, United Voices of the World (UWV), warned in April that workers felt forced to continue working despite feeling unwell because they could not afford to losewould have lost money.

Those who took time off only received statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week.

In May, the Guardian reported that Emanuel Gomes, a worker on the MoJ cleaning team, fell ill and died hours after his shift. There is no evidence Gomes had Covid-19 and a postmortem gave hypertensive heart disease as the probable cause of death.

Gomes’s family and United Voices of the World say that he continued working because he did not feel able to call in sick. On the day he died, a colleague said he was so feverish and unwell “he didn’t know where he was”’.

“Emanuel went to work feeling sick – but he knew that if he didn’t work … he would get to the end of the month and wouldn’t have enough money,” his brother Leao told the Guardian.

The MoJ strongly denies cases of Covid-19 were connected to its offices, saying: “It’s simply untrue to suggest there has been an outbreak linked to our headquarters.”

In April, testing was not widely available for people who were not hospitalised with coronavirus. OCS told the Guardian that it was not obliged to report Covid-19 cases at the time and had followed public health guidelines and asked individuals with symptoms to self-isolate.

Announcing the new scheme, an MoJ spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are extremely grateful to all the staff that have ensured our buildings remain safe for those who cannot work from home.

“We hope the fact that OCS colleagues are now able to self-isolate on full pay will provide financial reassurance.”

United Voices of the World had been campaigning for full sick pay well before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Molly de Dios Fisher, one of the union’s organisers, said in response: “We wish to stress how deeply angry and saddened we are that this decision has come too late to save Emanuel Gomes. Had this sick pay policy been implemented sooner Emanuel might still be with us today.

“We are proud to have finally forced the MoJ to pay full sick pay. This would not have happened without the near two-year struggle of our members who have taken repeated strike action. While this new scheme is welcome the MoJ has not committed to paying full sick pay for non-Covid sick leave and we will continue to fight for this, along with the living wage.”

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.