Issue date
TUC calls on government to tackle coronavirus by guaranteeing sick pay for all workers, regardless of how much they earn. Nearly 2 million workers in the UK aren’t eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, including a third of zero-hours contract workers.

At least 90,000 workers in Wales currently don’t earn enough to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), according to new TUC analysis released today (Friday).

The TUC is calling on the government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing emergency support for workers who are currently missing out on Statutory Sick Pay.

In a letter to ministers sent earlier this week, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warned that inadequate provision of sick pay could stop people taking up public health advice, since many workers will struggle to meet basic living costs if they can’t attend work for a prolonged period.

As a result, some may feel they have no choice but to go to work while ill, or against UK government advice.

Across the UK, nearly 2 million of the lowest-paid workers don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. According to TUC analysis this includes:

  • 34% of workers on zero-hours contracts
  • 1 in 10 women in work
  • More than a fifth (22%) of workers aged 16-24
  • More than a quarter (26%) of workers aged 65 and over, identified by government as one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus

To address the issue the TUC is calling for government to introduce an emergency support package for workers affected by the virus, including:

  • Emergency legislation to ensure Statutory Sick Pay coverage for all workers, regardless of how much they earn.
  • An increase in the amount of sick pay to the equivalent of the National Living Wage
  • A requirement that those asked by their employer to self-isolate on public health grounds remain on full pay.
  • An emergency fund to assist employers with the cost and to cover workers not currently eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

In response to union campaigning, the government has already pledged to provide Statutory Sick Pay from day one of illness to those affected by coronavirus. While this is an important step forward for workers, the TUC has warned that it’s not enough to solve the problem since so many workers don’t qualify for Statutory Sick Pay at all, and since the rate is only £94.95 a week.

Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said:

“We all want people to follow the UK government’s health advice. No one should be out of pocket for doing the right thing.

“But as it stands, at least 90,000 working people in Wales, many who are already struggling and been terribly impacted by recent bad weather and climate change, won’t be able to meet basic living costs if they stay home from work.

“This is an impossible choice that has serious implications for us all. The fairest and simplest solution is to immediately reform sick pay legislation so it covers all workers at a decent rate.

“It’s the most sensible way to give working families the security they need – and to protect public health.”

Sign our petition to guarantee decent sick pay for every worker from day one.