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Hundreds of thousands of workers in hospitality, retail, and the arts – sectors normally very busy during the festive season – receive no statutory sick pay, a situation that could contribute to high Covid rates this Christmas.
The TUC warned that new tougher self isolation rules could lead to more infection over the holiday period as workers are left with little choice but to work when ill with the Omicron variant.
About 647,000 workers in these sectors do not qualify for statutory sick pay and are at risk of being left with no work and no income over the Christmas period.
The new rules, introduced in response to the rise of the Omicron variant, require anyone coming into contact with a confirmed Omicron case to self-isolate for 10 days, even if they have been vaccinated.
But hundreds of thousands of festive workers, who are most likely to come in contact with people over the busy festive period, receive no sick pay while self-isolating and could face drastic cuts to their livelihoods over Christmas.
The TUC calculated that this applied to 238,000 hospitality workers (16% of the workforce); 336,000 retail workers (10%) and 73,000 arts and entertainment workers (12%). The only other sector of the economy with a higher proportion of workers who do not qualify for statutory sick pay is those employed by households – for example domestic cleaners – at 32%.