Last reviewed 5 July 2022
As part of learning to live with Covid-19, the Government has announced that, from 7 July, NHS staff in England will revert to normal contractual sick pay arrangements as special paid leave for Covid-related sickness and isolation will end.
Episodes of sickness absence related to Covid-19 are currently fully paid for all NHS workers regardless of their length of service, providing NHS staff with up to six months’ full pay and six months’ half pay, depending on length of service.
However, a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesperson said: "As we learn to live with Covid, we are withdrawing the temporary NHS staff sickness guidance that was put in place at the height of the pandemic, as part of plans to move back to the normal arrangements set out in the NHS terms and conditions.”
Withdrawal of the NHS staff terms and conditions section of the Covid-19 workforce guidance will revert how sickness absence and self-isolation will be managed for NHS staff in England back to pre-pandemic contractual sick pay arrangements, and any absence from work will likely count towards sickness absence triggers.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said the DHSC will withdraw sick pay for new episodes of Covid-19 sickness, as well as access to Covid-19 special leave for the purposes of self-isolation.
Staff currently away from work with a Covid-19-related illness will be subject to a transition period from 7 July to 31 August. NHS managers are being advised to meet with staff to explain the timescales.
RCN England Director Patricia Marquis called the decision "hugely disappointing", saying nursing staff faced a higher risk of exposure and are therefore disproportionately affected. She added: “We know many of our members are suffering from long Covid, with their lives adversely affected, making them unable to work.
“Facing the threat of losing full sick pay should they remain off sick from a condition some could argue is an occupational hazard, is neglectful and unfair. It's another indication of how little the UK Government values its nursing staff."
More guidance on the changes will be developed by the NHS Staff Council and shared with trusts in the coming days.
NHS staff in Wales will be subject to similar changes, while the HSC in Northern Ireland has not yet announced changes.