The TUC has today (Friday) slammed ministers’ “self-sabotage” on statutory sick pay, which “left millions brutally exposed to the pandemic”.
The union body has accused ministers of sitting on their hands and doing nothing – despite knowing the sick pay system was “broken”.
The TUC statement comes as Matt Hancock told the Covid public inquiry that statutory sick pay was “far, far too low”, “far lower than the European average” and said he would like to see sick pay doubled.
The former health secretary said low sick pay “encourages people to go to work when they should be getting better” and aids the spread of viruses.
Broken sick pay system
The TUC says the lack of decent sick pay massively undermined the UK’s ability to deal with the pandemic.
The UK went into the pandemic with the lowest rate of statutory sick pay in the OECD.
At just £94 a week – the average worker faced a £418 drop in earnings if they had to self-isolate on SSP.
A quarter (23%) of the UK workforce had to rely on SSP if they needed to self-isolate during the pandemic – a number that rose to three-in-ten (31%) for the lowest paid.
Freedom of Information requests show that Rishi Sunak spent more than double on ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ than he did funding the inadequate self-isolation scheme.
Over £800m was spent on ‘East Out to Help Out’ which lasted just over a month.
By contrast, just £385m was spent on the self-isolation support scheme in total throughout its existence (around 18 months).
Commenting on Matt Hancock’s comments on statutory sick pay at the Covid Public Inquiry, TUC Assistant General secretary Kate Bell said:
“Matt Hancock has let the cat out of the bag. During the pandemic, every minister knew our sick pay system was broken but they chose to sit on their hands and do nothing.
“The failure to provide proper financial support was an act of self-sabotage that left millions brutally exposed to the pandemic.
“The government could have boosted sick pay and made sure everyone could get it. But they failed to and instead left a gaping hole in our defence against the virus.
“The UK entered the pandemic with the most miserly rate of sick pay in the OECD. This cost us dear.
“As long-standing health secretary, Matt Hancock must take his share of the blame.
“But so should our prime minister who, as Chancellor, chose to spend more on ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ than on supporting people to self-isolate.
“Enough is enough – it's time to learn vital lessons from the pandemic. That means decent sick pay for all.”
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