TUC warns Test and Trace may fail unless self-isolating workers receive decent income

By agency reporter
June 1, 2020

The TUC is calling on the government to make sure that all workers have financial support to comply with social isolation requirements under the NHS Test and Trace scheme. 

The union body warns that inadequate sick pay could stop people acting on public health requests to self-isolate.  

Many workers benefit from contractual sick pay, paid for by their employer But around seven million employees – a quarter of the workforce – have only the protection of statutory sick pay which currently pays just £95.85 per week, which is too little for families to live on. 

Around two million of the lowest waged employees do not even qualify for statutory sick pay because their  earnings fall below the qualifying income threshold.  

  • Employees who do not qualify for statutory sick pay include: 
  • A third (34 per cent) of workers on zero-hours contracts
  • One in 10 women workers
  • A fifth (22 per cent) of workers aged 16-24
  • A quarter (26 per cent) of workers aged 65 and over, identified by government as one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus

The TUC is calling for government to bring in: 

  • Emergency legislation to ensure that statutory sick pay covers all employees, regardless of how much they earn.
  • An increase in the weekly amount of statutory sick pay to the equivalent of a week's work at the National Living Wage (£325 per week)
  • A legal duty on employers not to penalise or discriminate against any workers who are required to self-isolate once or repeatedly by NHS Track and Trace

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Statutory sick pay is too low for anyone to live on. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, admitted he couldn’t live on it – and neither can millions of other workers. 

“Everyone wants NHS Test and Trace to work, so we can all get on with our lives. But it’s not viable to ask people to self-isolate, perhaps repeatedly, if they will be pushed into financial hardship by doing so.  Instead they will be forced to keep working. That puts them at risk – and their family, workmates and local community too. 

“The government must raise statutory sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage  – £325 per week. And it must make sure low-paid workers can get it. That’s how to show that we really are all in this together.” 

Frances O’Grady challenged Health Secretary Matt Hancock about whether he could live on statutory sick pay on BBC Question Time on 19 March, and he admitted he could not.

* Read a TUC report on the workplace implications of testing and tracing here

* Trades Union Congress https://www.tuc.org.uk/


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