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  • NEW POLL: A fifth of workers forced to self-isolate at home without being able to work received no sick pay or wages at all
  • Lack of decent sick pay is pushing people into debt and undermining test and trace, warns union body
  • With the virus becoming more infectious “it’s more important than ever” that people can afford to self-isolate, says TUC

The TUC has today (Wednesday) called on ministers to urgently increase financial support for people who have to self-isolate to help bring down Britain’s “spiralling” Covid-19 cases.

New polling by the TUC shows that a fifth (20%) of workers who have been forced to self-isolate, but unable to work at home, have received no sick pay (or wages) at all.

Pushed into hardship

The poll reveals that many people will be plunged into hardship if they have to self-isolate on statutory sick pay in the coming months.

Two-fifths (40%) of workers say they would have to go into debt, or go into arrears on their bills, if their income dropped to £96 a week – the current level of statutory sick pay (SSP).

This number rises to nearly half (48%) for disabled workers.

The UK currently has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe and nearly two million workers do not earn enough to qualify for it – most of them women.

Workers receiving statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or additional paternity pay are currently not eligible to receive SSP. The self-employed are also excluded.

Lack of financial support

The TUC says the lack of decent sick pay has had a real impact during the crisis.

The poll reveals that, for workers forced to self-isolate but unable to work from home:

  • 1 in 5 (20%) received no sick pay (or wages) at all
  • A fifth (21%) had to raid their savings
  • 1 in 10 (10%) struggled to cover bills or had to go into debt.

Low-income workers (1 in 7) were more likely than middle and higher earners (1 in 12) to have to self-isolate without being able to work from home.

Undermining tier restrictions

The TUC has warned for months that the lack of decent sick pay has undermined the effectiveness of the government’s coronavirus restrictions, with workers forced to choose between following the health advice and paying their bills.

These concerns were echoed by testing tsar Dido Harding who admitted in November that the lack of decent financial support was deterring people with Covid-19 symptoms from self-isolating.

The TUC is calling for government to:

  • Increase the rate of SSP from £95.85 to real living wage of £320 a week
  • Extend SSP to all workers so nobody misses out due to not meeting the pay threshold
  • Introduce a more extensive support package for household finances, including increasing the local authority hardship fund and providing support for those struggling with council tax and rent

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government must do everything possible to slow down the spiralling rise in Covid-19 cases.

“With the virus becoming more infectious, it’s more important than ever that people self-isolate when they develop symptoms.

“But the lack of decent sick pay is undermining Britain’s public health effort and is forcing workers to choose between doing the right thing and being plunged into hardship.

“Ministers must stop turning a blind eye to this problem and raise sick pay to at least the real living wage of £320 a week.

“And they must ensure that everyone has access to it.”

Editors note

- Polling info: BritainThinks conducted an online survey of 2,231 in England and Wales between 19th November – 29thNovember 2020. All respondents were either in work, on furlough, or recently made redundant. Survey data has been weighted to be representative of the working population in England and Wales by age, gender, socioeconomic grade, working hours and security of work in line with ONS Labour Force survey data.

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together more than 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


TUC press office
020 7467 1248

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