Statutory sick pay arrangements in the UK are in breach of legal obligations under the European Social Charter, according to the Council of Europe.
A report by the council’s European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) found that sick pay and employment and support allowance in the UK are inadequate and do not meet the requirements under EU law.
It claimed that, in many cases, sick people were receiving less than 40% of the median income of the UK, although some people were entitled to claim additional benefits.
The report said: “Accordingly, regardless of the additional social assistance benefits which might be available, the committee considers that the level of these benefits is manifestly inadequate.”
Sick pay and absence
The ECSR also found that a change in the law three years ago to remove the need for self-employed people in certain industries to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was discriminatory and fell foul of EU law.
In 2015, the Government changed the way health and safety law was applied to self-employed workers so that only those who carried out activity that posed a risk to the health and safety of others, such as the public or customers, were covered.
“All workers, including the self-employed, must be covered by health and safety at work regulations as long as employed and self-employed workers are normally exposed to the same risks,” the ECSR said.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions told the Guardian that the UK’s welfare system “is among the best in the world”.
He said: “We spend over £90bn a year supporting people of working age, including those who are out of work or on a low income.”
From 6 April, the rate of statutory sick pay is set to increase from £89.35 to £92.05. To receive the statutory payment, an employee’s average earnings must be equal to or more than the lower earnings limit of £116. Statutory rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental leave and adoption are also expected to increase.