Thousands of healthcare students carrying out unpaid placements should be covered by the £60,000 lump sum life assurance if they succumb to Covid-19, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 26 January).

Unite has written to the health and social care secretary Matt Hancock asking him to close the loophole in NHS and Social Care Coronavirus Life Assurance Scheme 2020 as a matter of urgency. The scheme allows for a £60,000 lump sum payment to be paid to families, if a health or social care worker dies as a result of Covid-19.

Unite, which has been approached by a number of its healthcare students on the issue, said that the current scheme in England only states that students who are undertaking ‘paid frontline roles’ are covered by the scheme.

In a letter to Matt Hancock, Unite national officers for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe and Jackie Williams call for the scheme to be amended as ‘a matter of urgency’ to include healthcare students, undertaking unpaid placements.

The letter said: “Whilst we are sure you will agree that we would hope that their families will never need to call upon this provision, it is deeply unfair that they have the added anxiety on this issue on top of the numerous other concerns that they have at this time. 

“Students deserve this peace of mind at a time when they are doing so much to support our country through the coronavirus pandemic.” 

Unite understands that the estate of students who die while on unpaid placements could still apply to Matt Hancock to be included in the scheme and the expectation is that he would agree – but the union wants legal underpinnings in place to ensure that happens.

Commenting on the letter, Unite national officer for health Jackie Williams said: “Our NHS staff are giving 100 per cent in the battle against Covid-19, but unfortunately more than 620 health and social care staff have already died as a result of coronavirus.

“The least that the government can do is to close this loophole so that healthcare students on unpaid placements are covered by the £60,000 life assurance lump sum.” 

Unite lead professional officer for mental health Dave Munday added: “All healthcare students require, and deserve, this firm assurance in writing from the top of government, not only warm words and platitudes, since it would represent at least some financial security for their families if they make the ultimate sacrifice whilst keeping us safe.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: 

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.