One in 12 people classed as a key worker does not qualify for statutory sick pay if they are off ill, new research suggests.
The TUC said one in three does not receive the full amount – despite many of them being at greater risk from Covid-19 due to the frontline nature of their job.
Retail staff are among the key workers excluded from statutory sick pay (SSP, the union said, along with cleaners, teaching assistants and care workers.
The TUC called for sick pay to be reformed so that the lower earnings limit rule is removed, allowing the lowest paid workers to qualify.
It also said the rate of SSP should be raised.
“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,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.
“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.”
Estimates of key workers not qualifying for SSP due to the lower earnings limit were based on the government’s list of key occupations and data from the Labour Force Survey, said the TUC.
A government spokesperson said: “There is a comprehensive package of financial support in place for workers who need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of coronavirus – including a £500 payment for those on the lowest incomes who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
“Many employers pay more than the minimum level of SSP and employers with up to 250 staff can be reimbursed the cost of up to a fortnight’s statutory sick pay.”
with PA Wires