Sunday 01 August, 2021

Living with Covid means improving sick pay

UK government under pressure to increase sick pay and make it available to more low-income workers.

Following a Whitehall document outlining recommendations on how we can “live with Covid”, the SNP’s Health spokesperson, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, has said this will only be possible if the UK government improves its sick pay policy.

The document – which criticises the UK sick pay policy and urges UK Ministers to do more to support people isolating – comes after a year of SNP calls to increase Statutory Sick Pay in line with the Real Living Wage, make it available for 52 weeks instead of 28, and make it available to everyone regardless of earnings, working hours or contract.

In November, the Resolution Foundation revealed that over 2 million people in the UK do not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Resolution Foundation said: “If we want people to do their bit in controlling the spread of the virus, even if they don’t feel ill themselves, then we need a step change in our approach to sick pay to ensure people feel they do not pay a high personal price for contributing towards our collective health response.

“Our current system comes in two highly flawed forms. Statutory sick pay provides an inadequate level of protection (£95.85) and excludes two million of the lowest earners. It needs to be raised and made available to lower earners.”

The UK has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe, with the Council of Europe describing it as “manifestly inadequate” – yet it is the main support available for employees who need to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis.

Commenting, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, said: “The SNP, along with organisations like the TUC, Resolution Foundation, as well as the Lords Economic Committee, has repeatedly called for sick pay policy to be improved, warning that it is not flexible enough to meet real life needs and falls far short of meeting a dignified standard of living. This Whitehall document vindicates that.

“Repeated Surveys have demonstrated the worrying number of people who have not fully isolated when they have tested positive for Covid — usually because of financial pressures and insecure jobs.

“If we are to ‘live with Covid’, it is vital that we have a sick pay system that does not force people to choose between hardship or risking their health and the health of others.

“It is truly astonishing that we are over a year into a global health pandemic and this Tory UK government continues to preside over one of the lowest rates of Statutory Sick Pay in Europe.

“Other European countries set sick pay as a percentage of salary to prevent people from falling into financial hardship whilst recovering from illness.

“In contrast, this Tory government has spent months forcing workers into hardship in the middle of the biggest public health and economic crisis we have ever seen. Scotland deserves better than this.”

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