Nearly two-thirds of workers (65%) who were sick in the past 12 months pushed through their illness and carried on working, according to a poll for the TUC.
The poll of 1,039 workers in Wales aged 16 and over by YouGov shows how the sick pay system is failing workers and is a danger to public health, argued Wales TUC, which commissioned the survey.
Insecure workers are ten times more likely than workers in more secure jobs to get nothing when off sick, the trade union body said.
A quarter of key workers are only eligible for statutory sick pay, and one in six hospitality workers and one in eight retail workers are ineligible for any sick pay at all, it also pointed out.
Asked “over the past 12 months did you work when you were sick?”, a total of 51% said yes, 27% no, 21% said they had not been sick and 2% did not know. The 65% figure was therefore arrived at by removing those workers who reported that they had not been sick over the past 12 months.
Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC general secretary, said: “The reality is that the majority of workers in Wales have gone to work while they’re sick during a pandemic. The UK’s sick pay system is a liability and this will only get worse as more people struggle to make ends meet because of the cost of living emergency.”
Presenteeism and absence
Unions in Wales are also calling on the Welsh Government to make the coronavirus sick pay scheme for social care workers permanent and to expand it to cover all types of sick leave.
While the powers relating to statutory sick pay are not devolved, during the pandemic Welsh Government stepped in to establish a ‘sick pay enhancement scheme’, which is due to expire later this week, at the end of June.
The scheme provides funding for employers to pay workers at full pay if they have to take sick leave because of Covid-19.
Taj said: “Keeping and expanding the sick pay scheme would be a really important next step to improve working conditions in the sector, making sure that no care worker faces the choice between going into work while ill or extreme financial hardship.”