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Budget announcement on Coronavirus leave millions of workers behind

Published date
The Government still hasn’t announced a plan for the nearly two million workers who miss out on sick pay because they don’t earn enough.

The Chancellor rightly started today’s budget speech with the need to take action to protect people both from Coronavirus, and from its economic impacts. He promised the NHS would get the funding it needs, and a range of business support measures – including taking the sensible step of reimbursing small businesses for the costs of sick pay.

But the announcements on protecting workers who need to self-isolate still fall short. The Chancellor set out that:

  • As the TUC called for, sick pay will be available from the first day someone is sick or self -isolating, rather than the existing four day wait.
  • The government will make it clear that those who are self-isolating, or caring for someone who is self-isolating with symptoms, will be eligible for sick pay.
  • There will be an online process for proving that you’ve been asked to self-isolate – rather than having to attend a GP appointment to get a ‘fit note’.

But rather than extend eligibility for sick pay to those who don’t earn enough to qualify, the Chancellor told them to turn to the benefit system instead.

And while he announced minor improvements to the way the system works (ending the seven day wait for contributory Employment and Support Allowance), the benefit system still isn’t fit to provide the support people need. That’s because:

  • There’s still a five week wait for the main benefit – Universal Credit. The government has said that people can get an advance payment – but those hit by a shock to their income won’t be able to pay back what is only a loan.
  • Many people may miss out on Universal Credit due to income rules that mean if you have savings over £16,000 you don’t qualify.
  • The level of benefits is even lower than sick pay. Employment and Support Allowance is just £73.10 a week.

We already know that sick pay is a significant drop in income for those most likely to be affected. Asking them to live on £73 a week risks pushing people into poverty and debt.

Statutory sick pay as a proportion of weekly pay, by occupation 

Statutory sick pay as a proportion of weekly pay, by occupation 
Source ASHE, TUC analysis

That’s why we still need #sickpayfor all. You can sign the petition if you agree.

Guarantee sick pay for every worker Nearly 2 million UK workers do not qualify for statutory sick pay
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