Unions have criticised the government for increasing statutory sick pay by a ‘miserly’ 50p per week.
From today the statutory sick pay rate increases from £95.85 to £96.35 a week, but bodies including the TUC and Unite claim this is too little to live on.
Statutory sick pay and leave
The TUC has urged the government to set SSP at the same level as the “real” Living Wage, which the Living Wage Foundation currently recommends is £9.50 an hour outside of London and £10.85 an hour within Greater London.
“No one should be plunged into hardship if they need to self-isolate. But more than a year into this pandemic, many workers still don’t have access to decent sick pay,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.
“Today’s miserly increase will do nothing to help people who get Covid. Statutory sick pay is just too little to live on.”
O’Grady said the government’s failure to increase SSP to a level that workers can live on was undermining efforts to reduce Covid-19 infections, as some workers felt they had no choice but to continue to work.
“Many working in pubs and shops are on low wages and face having to survive on just £96 a week if they get sick,” she added.
The TUC also warned that around two million workers did not earn enough to qualify for SSP. It is also unavailable for self-employed workers, unlike in most European countries. In France, workers who fall ill or need to self-isolate usually receive 50% of their salary for the time they are off work, while the Netherlands has a minimum rate of 70%.
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “Time and again the government has been told that people will not isolate without a living income.
“Unless and until the government addresses the scandalously low level of sick pay provision in this country, any scheme to reopen the economy that rests on isolation but without income is half-baked and will fail.”
The government said it has a “comprehensive” package of financial support in place for workers who need to self-isolate, including a £500 payment for those on the lowest incomes who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
Employers with up to 250 staff can apply for a reimbursement of up to two weeks’ statutory sick pay.