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£13 a day isn’t enough - isolating workers need proper sick pay

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The government's proposed payouts for low-paid workers who have to self-isolate won't be enough to support struggling families.

Some low-paid workers are to receive money if they have to self-isolate due to Covid-19, in a belated concession by ministers that many families face an impossible choice between hardship and health.

The £13-a-day pay-out will only apply to those under local lockdowns and will first be piloted in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham.

But the move is so limited that it leaves millions of families still facing financial problems if they must self-isolate.

The TUC has long warned that being forced into isolation without being able to work from home would mean a massive income hit for many families.

We have called for employers to continue to pay workers’ wages where they are able to. 

But we also need to raise minimum sick pay to the level of the Real Living Wage, and access to Statutory Sick Pay for the two million workers who currently do not get it because they do not earn enough.

Who will get money?

The government has said that it will pay £13 a day to employees or self-employed workers told to isolate because they have Covid-19, a household member has Covid-19, or they have been contacted by NHS Track and Trace after being in contact with someone with the virus.

But it will only apply in those areas in local lockdowns.

To be eligible the applicant has to be unable to work from home and currently be receiving Universal Credit (UC) or Working Tax Credit.

The scheme only applies to England.

How much?

Eligible workers will get £13 a day. This amounts to:

  • £130 if you have tested positive and have to self-isolate for 10 days.
  • £182 if a member of your household has tested positive and you are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • A maximum of £182 if someone has had contact with a person outside their household who has tested positive and they are asked to self-isolate.

What will you have to show?

Applicants will be asked to provide notification from NHS Test and Trace and a bank statement.
Employed people will be asked to show proof of employment. 

Self-employed workers will need to show evidence of trading income and that their business delivers services they are unable to carry out without social contact.

Who will it help?

The Resolution Foundation calculates that up to four million workers in low-income families could be entitled to this new support.

It says that a single parent living in social housing, working full-time (37.5 hours) on a low wage (£9.93 per hour), would receive 90 per cent of their normal weekly income if they had to self-isolate from higher Universal Credit payments and this new support.

But seven out of eight households do not receive the relevant benefits and would be unable to claim.

Many potentially eligible workers  - even those on UC or Working Tax Credit -  would miss out on this scheme because their area is not in local lockdown.

What about sick pay?

Sick pay is an alternative for some, but not all, workers who are not eligible for this new scheme.

Statutory sick pay is the minimum sick pay an eligible worker must receive and amounts to £95.85 a week.
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them from their first day of self-isolation if it is because: 

  • They have Covid-19.
  • They have Covid-19 symptoms, such as a high temperature or a new continuous cough.
  • Someone in their household has Covid-19 symptoms.
  • They've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111.
  • They’ve been told to self-isolate by a government 'test and trace' service. 

Previously there was a four-day waiting period, but this has now been removed. 

However, workers may be due more than SSP under the terms of their contract.

Crucially, those in work earning less than the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) of £120 do not qualify for SSP or any financial support from their employer. 

In total, nearly two million people miss out on sick pay. Women, those in insecure work, and younger and older workers are most likely to be excluded. 

Meanwhile those who do qualify receive such a low pay-out that they remain at risk of poverty. The payment is equal to about a fifth of average weekly earnings.

What should the government do?

The TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Tell bosses to continue to pay full wages to workers in self-isolation wherever possible.
  • Extend eligibility to sick pay to all workers.
  • Boost statutory sick pay to the level of the Real Living Wage.
  • Extend the Job Retention Scheme that allows employers to put workers on furlough. 
Guarantee sick pay for every worker Nearly 2 million UK workers do not qualify for statutory sick pay
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