Home News ‘Increase Statutory Sick Pay To Save Christmas for Low Paid Workers’

‘Increase Statutory Sick Pay To Save Christmas for Low Paid Workers’

‘Increase Statutory Sick Pay To Save Christmas for Low Paid Workers’

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%.

The UK has the least generous statutory sick pay in Europe, worth just £96.35 per week. And it is only available to employees earning £120 per week or more. The average worker across Europe receives 65% of their salary as pay during a week of sick leave – in the UK, workers are paid less than 9% of a typical week’s salary.

In April 2021 the TUC described the uplift in statutory sick pay as “miserly”.

This leaves about a third of workers – over 10 million people – with sick pay that is too low to meet basic living costs or no sick pay at all.

The government introduced a temporary scheme to assist people who face hardship if required to self-isolate. However, TUC research has found that two-thirds of applications (64%) are rejected – in part because the funding is too low. Also, many workers are not aware of it.

The TUC is calling on the government to extend statutory sick pay protection to every worker by removing the lower earnings limit and increasing statutory sick pay to at least the value of the real living wage – (£9.90ph outside London or £346 pw).

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Our sick pay system is broken. No one should be left to choose between doing the right thing or putting food on the table. And we all risk having our Christmas ruined because our sick pay system doesn’t do what’s needed to stop the virus from spreading.

“Ministers must extend sick pay protection to every worker. And it should worth at least the same as the Living Wage to make sure people can afford to isolate.”

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