A TRADE union claims workers off sick at a Wirral care home have been forced to survive on food parcels because of issues around sick pay.

Unison made the claims against The Old Garden care home, in Hoylake - claiming staff working on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic have only been given statutory sick pay of £95.85 when they have become ill.

Unison said that amounts to a loss of £300 per week for some carers, leaving them to survive on food parcels, even though they work at a facility which markets itself as a 'luxury care home'.

But a spokesperson for The Old Garden said that from June 12 all employees absent from work following a positive Covid-19 test, or because they are shielding, have been getting full sick pay.

This will last for as long as additional funding from Wirral Council, which The Old Garden received on June 12, allows.

The care home's response suggests that full sick pay was not given before that date and The Old Garden did not deny this when asked.

Unison also blasted the care home for refusing to pay The Real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour, the amount calculated to be the minimum someone can afford to live off.

The union argued there is a stark contrast between the “luxury prices” charged by the care home and the minimum wage payments of £8.72 per hour it gives to its staff.

At the start of May, Wirral Council confirmed a £12m package of additional funding for care homes.

The money was pledged after the local authority got assurances it would be used to pay carers the Real Living Wage and an expectation that staff off sick due to Covid-19 would receive full sick pay.

The funding was also given to help care homes cope with increased costs, such as PPE, an increased stock of cleaning products and extra shift payments to cover for workers who are self-isolating or shielding.

Unison’s statement includes a quote from an Old Garden care worker at the home, who said: “I am disgusted that they do not value the staff as much as the resident’s families do!

"[It's] not somewhere I want to be, but thankfully, the people I work with are amazing, absolutely awesome!

"And the residents appreciate them!

"We are a good team but we deserve proper pay.”

On Friday, Unison held a protest against what it said is a failure to pay the Real Living Wage or full sick pay.

Lois Founds, deputy branch secretary of Wirral Unison, said care workers have done a “fantastic job” throughout the pandemic and accused The Old Garden of giving “poverty pay” to its staff.

She added: “The Old Garden has refused to engage with Unison and refuses to implement the funding given to them, as intended when staff are off sick.

“We felt we had no option but to publicly protest against the Old Garden.

“They brand themselves as a luxury establishment but staff pay does not reflect this- far from it- it’s poverty pay and we won’t accept it!”

The Old Garden rejected this description of its pay policy and said the whole care industry currently faces a huge financial challenge.

A spokesperson for the care home, said: “It is correct that the Home has taken the decision to continue to pay the National Living Wage [the legal minimum] rather than the Real Living Wage to some employees.

“This followed a financial analysis of the funding Wirral Council had offered at that time.

“The decision we took – which was the same decision taken by several other care homes on the Wirral at that time – was to decline the offer of additional funding from the council, as there were financial risks associated with this additional funding that would have been likely to have had a long-term detrimental impact on the Home.”

Despite its decision to refuse this additional funding from Wirral Council, the care home said it was facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic.

The statement continued: “With reference to comments about the finances of the Home, we find these both inaccurate and inappropriate.

“It is a known fact that all care homes in England have faced financial challenges for a considerable period of time, which have resulted in the closure of a substantial number of care homes.

“This has been further exacerbated by the pandemic which has resulted, tragically in the deaths of a significant number of care home residents.

“This has had a substantial impact on the income of all care homes and The Old Garden, like all other care homes, is striving to provide the same level of quality of services despite experiencing a reduction of income.”

The spokesperson also said the Old Garden was unhappy with Unison’s actions.

The statement read: “We are very disappointed about the comments and actions taken by Unison, which we have found to be adversarial and unhelpful at a time of massive challenge to the Home.

“At a time when we are fighting to survive – like all other care homes, it is regrettable that we have experienced such an uncompromising and inflexible approach from Unison.

“We are working towards doing our very best to secure the jobs and livelihoods of all of our staff, who have been unbelievably brave and loyal during these challenging times.

“We have to keep a focus on the long-term viability of the business for the well-being of all of our fantastic staff and residents, rather than taking short-term decisions, which may be easier to make, but may result in job losses in future.”