Extend coronavirus death compensation to families of key workers, unions tell government
Currently only health and care workers are covered but millions are at risk
The families of key workers who die from coronavirus should be automatically eligible for compensation payments, a trade union has said.
The FBU, which represents fire-fighters, said the government should instruct employers to automatically treat Covid-19 deaths as being in the line of duty - which would trigger payments to the bereaved.
The call comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced a similar policy for NHS and social care staff which left other key workers on the front line of the crisis un-covered.
Fire-fighters are among key workers going face to face with the virus, with duties including moving bodies, transporting infected patients and delivering vital food and medicine supplies.
Other works to bear the brunt of the epidemic include transport workers like bus drivers. Transport for London confirmed earlier this month that more than two dozen of its workers had died.
The call comes on International Workers' Memorial Day, 28 April, which commemorates the deaths of workers killed or injured by their jobs. A national minute's silence was held in the UK today for those who had died during the crisis.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said that "the last thing" the families of key workers needed was "to fight a battle for compensation".
“There is sadly a real chance that firefighters will die, and that’s why we are calling on the government to urgently instruct all fire and rescue services to treat any death from COVID-19 as being caused by their work, making families automatically eligible for a payment under the firefighters’ compensation scheme," he said.
“This instruction must also be broadened out to include all key workers, both in the public and private sector. Those not deemed key workers, but who have been obliged to continue attending work by their employer, must also be covered. Any compensation arrangements must not prevent families from taking further legal action against employers who have jeopardised the safety of their workers.
“This crisis has demonstrated clearly who the key workers are in our society. And there can be no doubt that nurses, doctors, refuse collectors, bus drivers, firefighters, carers, and many more, have gone over and above to keep all of us safe - and the country running. The government must now promise to do its bit to keep all of their families safe and secure into the future.”
Other key workers include education and childcare workers, those running key public services, people who work in food production and distribution, security workers, and utility and communications workers.
Speaking at Downing Street on Monday, Health Secretary Mr Hancock said: "I feel a deep personal sense of duty that we must care for their loved ones
"Today I'm able to announce that the Government is setting up a life assurance scheme for frontline colleagues.
"Families of staff who die from coronavirus in the course of their essential frontline work will receive a £60,000 payment.
"Of course, nothing replaces the loss of a loved one but we want to do everything we can to support families who are dealing with this grief."