Ahead of the budget, the SNP has renewed calls for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be increased in line with a Real Living Wage and made available to all for 52 weeks – stating that today the UK is the “sick man of Europe” when it concerns sick pay.
The UK has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe, with the Council of Europe describing it as “manifestly insufficient” – yet it is the main assistance offered for employees who need to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis.
The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has approximated that the typical worker earning ₤531 a week would experience an 82% drop in pay in their very first week off ill on statutory sick pay (SSP) and the Women’s Budget Group has exposed that women are less likely than men to qualify for SSP.
House of Commons Library research has indeed revealed that those who have been on the front line in dealing with Covid-19 and keeping crucial services running — and at greater risk of contracting the virus – would miss out on approximately 83% of their pay if they went off ill.
The self-employed and others earning less than ₤120 each week do not qualify for SSP. Research from the Resolution Foundation shows that this means 1 in 4 part-time workers and 1 in 7 employees in retail, hospitality and leisure are left with no income if they have to self-isolate in their homes.
Commenting, the SNP’s Health spokesperson Philippa Whitford MP said: “It is shameful that we are almost a year into a global health pandemic, in which self-isolating is crucial to getting Covid infections down, but the UK is still the sick man of Europe when it comes to sick pay.
“Statutory sick pay in its current form is one of the lowest in Europe and not flexible enough to meet the needs of real people.
“We need a system fit for the 21st century and the current global health pandemic yet the Tories are so out-of-touch with reality that they either cannot or will not recognise this. The UK government must use the upcoming budget to increase and extend sick pay.
“It is shameful that the Tories are forcing people and families into a position where they have to risk their health, and the health of others, just to put food on the table.
“The welfare system – including sick pay – is supposed to be a safety net for people when their circumstances change through no fault of their own.
“With the full powers of independence, the Scottish Government would have the ability to provide a social security system that meets people’s needs and ensures they are not driven into financial hardship by Coronavirus or any other illness – as other European countries do.”