Death in service cover will be extended to social care workers during the pandemic, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
A fund has also been announced to provide enhanced sick pay, above the statutory payment of £95.85 per week, to care workers who have received a positive test for Covid-19.
Ministers had faced pressure to make the changes after death in service cover was extended to all NHS workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Scottish Labour and unions had called for the extra financial help for social care workers, highlighting those who were financially penalised for self-isolating with suspected Covid-19.
Now, in addition to the sick pay fund, the Scottish Government has also announced it will give a one-off payment of £60,000 to a named survivor of any social care worker who dies without death in service cover in their contracted pension arrangements.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Social care staff provide a critical and valuable service, never more apparent than during this emergency period.
“While some employers offer employment contracts closer to the Scottish Government’s fair work principles, it is clear that others do not.
“In recognition of the current exceptional circumstances and in order to ensure that social care workers are given the urgent support they deserve, we will develop a Scottish Government-funded scheme for care workers in respect of sick pay and death in service benefits.
“These fair work issues and how they are realised in commissioning contracts will require to be addressed but, in the current circumstances, my focus now is on fairness for the care workers affected.
“We will continue to work with local government, social care providers and trades unions on further details of the plans over the course of next week.”
Mike Kirby, Unison Scottish secretary, welcomed the changes and added: “The fact that social care workers often have their weekly income reduced to statutory sick pay is immoral and left care workers with exceptionally difficult choice between protecting their own health, protecting those they care for or putting them and their families in a very difficult financial situation.
“Over the next week, Unison will continue to do the detailed work with government and others to ensure there is an equitable approach taken by all health and social care partnerships. However, the fact we now have an agreement is hugely encouraging.”
Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “Sick pay and death in service benefits for care workers should be basic rights and Scottish Labour is pleased to have worked with trade unions to secure these welcome commitments from the Scottish Government.
“Tragically, we have lost too many frontline health and social care staff to this virus, whilst others have become ill, all in the line of duty.
“Families have endured financial hardship in incredibly difficult circumstances and this is an injustice that had to be corrected.”