UK sick pay nearly worst in Europe and in breach of international law

UK's Statutory Sick Pay was found to breach the European Social Charter two years ago, but nothing has been done.

13 Mar 2020

The UK’s Statutory Sick Pay legislation is almost the worst in Europe and is in breach of international law, figures revealed, as workers worry about how the Coronavirus will affect their ability to meet their living costs.

Described in 2018 as “manifestly inadequate” and “not in conformity” with the European Social Charter by the European Committee of Social Rights, the UK’s Statutory Sick Pay is the second-lowest in Europe.

Workers are entitled to just £94.25 a week when they are ill – significantly less than the National Minimum Wage – and even then this payment normally only kicks in on the fourth consecutive day of absence. The first three days of sickness are unpaid.

Around half of EU Member States provide sick pay from the first day of absence and the majority provide a higher rate of pay. Only three countries – including the UK – apply a flat rate of Statutory Sick Pay to all workers, and we are one of only four that do not extend this protection to the self-employed.

While Johnson’s government caved to pressure from the unions to provide sick pay from the first day of absence to workers affected by Coronavirus, it has been criticised for not reviewing the effectiveness of existing legislation at making it affordable for the infected to stay home.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “£94 a week is not a lot of money to pay the bills and survive on.

“That’s why the TUC is calling for statutory sick pay to be increased to at least the real living wage.”