The government is drawing up plans to offer financial support to people who are self-isolating but who do not qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) – including self-employed workers and people who earn below the £118-a-week threshold.
We’re working on making sure that people who are say self-employed or are in an employment contract that doesn’t allow them to get statutory sick pay … to make sure that they get the [financial] support they need” – Matt Hancock
Speaking on Question Time yesterday, the health secretary Matt Hancock said that people self-isolating because they have, or there is a risk they have, the Covid-19 coronavirus should not be penalised for “doing the right thing”.
He reiterated the prime minister’s pledge on Wednesday to change SSP rules such that people receive the pay from day one of their absence, rather than day four, as the regulations currently stipulate.
He added: “We’re also working on making sure that people who are self-employed or are in an employment contract that doesn’t allow them to get statutory sick pay – because they don’t earn the minimum amount or they don’t work full time – to make sure that they get the [financial] support they need as well.
“Because if we as government are asking people to self-isolate then they shouldn’t be penalised for doing the right thing which is good for them but good for the whole community.”
Hancock added that he was working with ministerial colleagues in the Department for Work and Pension and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy “to get the exact rules of that right and then they will go to parliament”.
Coronavirus sickness absence
There are around five million self-employed workers in the UK.
Boris Johnson’s announcement to abolish the three-day “waiting period” for statutory sick pay was broadly welcomed but was met with criticism that it did not go far enough.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Two million workers still don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. They can’t afford not to work. And statutory sick pay still isn’t enough to live on.
“Government must go further to ensure that no one is penalised for doing the right thing.”
Under the proposed SSP arrangements, if a person on the national living wage had to self-isolate, they would receive £94.25 per week, just one third of their typical take-home pay of £277.35, assuming they were working 37.5 hours per week.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, added: “People shouldn’t be faced with a choice of making ends meet or following public health advice and helping prevent the spread of the virus”.
At 6.15pm yesterday (5 March), a statutory instrument was put in place that added Covid-19 to the list of legally notifiable diseases, meaning that businesses could make insurance claims for losses incurred.