From the end of March, workers suffering from the coronavirus will have to wait until their fourth day of sickness before they can get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The Government’s decision to end ‘day one’ sick pay entitlement for those with the virus will hit workers across the economy – with 7.8 million people relying on SSP when they fall ill.
Britain already has one of the lowest rates of statutory sick pay in Europe and the developed world, at £96.35 per week – and two million low-paid workers do not have access to it at all. The TUC’s Frances O’Grady said the Government was causing “needless hardship” in ending day one support:
“Nobody should have to wait till their fourth day of being sick to receive support. The government is creating needless hardship and taking a sledgehammer to public health. The failure to provide decent sick pay to all – from the first day of illness – is reckless and self-defeating.
If people can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick, they will take their infections into work. Ministers have been warned again and again by unions, businesses and public health experts not to scrap free Covid tests. But they have ignored these pleas.”
The £500 ‘Test and Trace’ self-isolation support payment will also end, as part of the Prime Minister’s announcement on “learning to live with Covid”. So, many workers are now faced with a situation where they could still be told to isolate, but won’t be able to access any support if they can’t go to work.
The GMB also expressed their anger at the decision, calling it an act of “national self-sabotage”. Dan Shears, the union’s national health and safety director, said:
“This nonsensical announcement guarantees that workers will attend the workplace with COVID-19. This will prolong the pandemic with more outbreaks. Asking people to exercise responsibility whilst taking away a key workplace provision for them to do that just shows how bankrupt this government is. The situation will be made even worse in April when statutory sick pay is cut in real terms against a backdrop of rampant inflation.”
Boris Johnson on Monday admitted that some people will slip through the net after he ended coronavirus support in England, telling the Mirror: “We’re trying to make sure they get it in other ways and they get helped in tough times through other support, through local councils or by other routes.”