Scottish Borders council accused by union over £500 Covid-19 'thank you' bonus payments

A row has broken out between union chiefs and Scottish Borders Council, after it ruled that staff on 35 hours per week contracts will not get a full £500 Covid ‘thank you’ bonus.

Monday, 24th May 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 24th May 2021, 4:05 pm
Unison is in dispute with Scottish Borders Council

UNISON are preparing to launch a grievance against Scottish Borders Council after it said social care staff working less than 37 hours will have a one-off £500 thank you payment slashed.

At the centre of the row is a claim by the council that social care workers on 35 hour contracts don’t qualify as ‘full-time’.

The Scottish Government published guidance in March for local authorities confirming staff in adult social care services or children’s residential care who worked full-time would be eligible for the one-off thank you payment.

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It states any member of staff who worked full-time hours ‘(as defined for your organisation) or 37.5 hours or more per week’ should be counted as full-time equivalent (FTE).

But the council has told the union that for those who worked 35 hour per week between 17 March and 30 November 2020 the payment will be ‘reduced accordingly’ meaning staff will receive £472.97 before tax and national insurance is deducted, instead of the full £500.

Unison says this isn’t compliant with the guidance and denies workers money they are entitled to, while the council has deemed 35-hours per week social worker jobs as full-time in their job ads and contracts,

The union stressed that social care staff deserve the full amount after working throughout the pandemic including lockdowns under exceptionally difficult circumstances.

Greig Kelbie, Unison Scotland regional organiser said: “We know of no example where a social worker on a 35 hour contract has been called a part-time worker. There was a hugely positive feeling towards the council and Scottish Government when the £500 thank you payment was announced. It’s extremely disappointing that staff will be docked £27.03 from this bonus.

“Unison have pointed out that 35 hours is a full-time contract, these posts are advertised as full-time and referred to as full-time throughout the council. Staff are angry that they are being forced to fight for their full thank-you payment. Unison is currently identifying staff across the council who have been effected to start a collective grievance against the Scottish Borders Council.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “The council is very proud of the outstanding work of all our workforce during the pandemic. The Scottish Government bonus payment is scheduled to be paid in our May payroll and we recently advised staff of the payment calculation process. We were aware that the variance in standard working hours was impacting on the payment for some of our staff.

“The council had reviewed this situation in response to individual staff raising concerns and to ensure the spirit intended for the payment was recognised. The payment remains scheduled for the May payroll and staff will receive the full bonus if they work 35 hours or above per week. Despite the monthly Trades Union meeting taking place on the 20 May 2021 the council was unaware of any grievance being raised by Unison.”

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