NEW ANALYSIS PUBLISHED BY THE TUC shows that one in 12 key workers (788,000 people) do not qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) – despite many of them being at greater risk from Covid-19 due to the frontline nature of their job.

The analysis uses the same definition of key worker as government. It finds that those excluded from SSP include more than a quarter of cleaners (27 per cent) and retail workers (26 per cent); nearly one in 10 teaching assistants (nine per cent); and over one in 20 care workers (six per cent).

Additional figures from polling for the TUC by BritainThinks show that, for those who self-identify as key workers in the context of the Covid pandemic, a third (33 per cent) report getting less than full sick pay (below their usual rate of pay); and a quarter (24 per cent) report getting only the minimal protection of SSP at just £96 per week.

The TUC is calling for sick pay to be reformed so that:

  • The lower earnings limit rule is removed, allowing the lowest paid workers to qualify for statutory sick pay for the first time
  • The rate of SSP is raised to at least the level of the real living wage (£330 per week).

Research commissioned by the TUC from the Fabian Society shows that the cost of raising SSP to the equivalent of the real Living Wage for employers without an occupational sick pay scheme would be around £110 per employee per year – or just over £2 a week.

The research also shows that removing the lower earnings limit, which prevents those on low earnings from accessing statutory sick pay, would cost employers a maximum of £150 million a year. And it would cost the government less than one per cent of the test and trace scheme to support employers with this cost.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Nobody should have to choose between going into work if they’re sick or should be self-isolating, or doing the right thing by staying home, but facing hardship as a result. But that’s the choice facing many key workers who kept the country going during the pandemic.

“Our key workers deserve the dignity, security and safety of proper sick pay and a decent pay rise too. They have earned it, often in frontline jobs with much greater risk of infection than those who could work from home.

“The cost of fixing the UK’s broken sick pay system is small compared to other public health measures like test and trace. Ministers must urgently make every worker eligible for statutory sick pay. And it should be worth at least as much as the real Living Wage.”

* Read the Fabian Society report Statutory Sick Pay: Options for reform here.

* Source: Trades Union Congress