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Millions of low-paid workers don’t qualify for sick pay – and women are worst affected

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It’s time to scrap the earnings threshold that is leaving 1.4 million women ineligible for statutory sick pay.

No one should have to worry about falling into debt or struggling to pay their bills when they’re ill.

But millions of UK workers are currently ineligible for statutory sick pay because they don’t earn enough.

Our new analysis published today shows of those ineligible more than two thirds (69 per cent) are women – or 1 in 10 of the female workforce in the UK.

People in low-paid and insecure work are missing out on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) despite being the most in need.  

That’s because if you earn less than the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) of £118, you don’t qualify for SSP or any financial support from your employer when you go off work sick.    

The TUC believes that low-paid workers should have equal rights to SSP, paid at the normal rate, or at a rate equivalent to their normal weekly earnings if that is lower.

And we’re calling for the minimum earning threshold to be scrapped.

Women most affected

Removing the LEL hurdle will potentially extend SSP protection to around 2 million workers on low pay.

TUC analysis shows this will predominately benefit women, as they are more likely to be in low-paid work.

In fact, 70 percent of the 2 million people who will gain from removing this income threshold are women.

And our analysis shows that around one in ten women currently in work are not entitled to SSP due do the LEL threshold.

Those in insecure forms of work are also more likely to lose out on SSP, as their irregular hours may result in them not earning enough to meet the income threshold.

That means that many of the approximately 1.8 million employees in insecure jobs may be forcing themselves to work even if they are unwell – putting their health at risk as well as that of their clients or fellow workers.

We already know that some insecure workers drag themselves in to work while ill as they simply can’t afford to take time off when sick. 

Our analysis also shows that almost a quarter of those on zero-hour contracts do not meet the earnings threshold, compared to 6 percent of permanent employees.

Protect every worker

It’s clearly not right that you can be considered too low paid to fall ill. The earnings eligibility hurdle needs to be scrapped immediately. 

And we need to see a wider move by government towards providing decent jobs, offering decent hours, decent pay and decent rights at work, to all.