Teaching assistants, caretakers, cleaners and other school support staff in Hertfordshire will no longer have their wages stopped when they go off sick, trade union UNISON announced yesterday (Monday).

"Staff in schools run by Hertfordshire County Council were having their pay stopped for two days when they were too ill to work, after the council changed its contractual sick pay scheme a decade ago," a spokesperson for the union explained.

"Council leaders in 2011 claimed that the pressures of austerity meant they could no longer afford to pay its staff when they were too unwell to work.

"County Hall staff had full occupational sick pay reinstated a couple of years ago, but frontline school staff still went without."

School support staff in UNISON launched a campaign earlier this year, setting up a petition attracting nearly 800 signatures and pushing the council for action.

The council agreed to talks and offered to reintroduce sick pay as part of a series of contractual changes which staff have now accepted, UNISON says.

Teaching assistant Pip Moore, who spearheaded the UNISON campaign, said: "When we found out that other workers in the council and the teachers we work alongside were all receiving full sick pay, it felt massively unfair.

"School support staff already endure low pay and an increasing workload and growing responsibility. To not pay staff — when they have usually got ill from pupils or are staying home to protect medically vulnerable colleagues and pupils — is unjustifiable.

"Getting the council to listen and reinstate sick pay is great. Being loud and tenacious has paid off."


UNISON Eastern regional organiser, Nalin Cooke, added: "School support staff were sick and tired of being treated as second class citizens, so they joined together in UNISON to do something about it.

"Thanks to their action, the council has listened and corrected this injustice. It shows how when people get together in their trade unions, they can win improvements at work."

Hertfordshire County Council has been approached for comment.