The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has called on ministers to “come to their senses” and finally deliver decent sick pay for all, as research revealed the UK has the lowest statutory sick pay in real terms in almost two decades
According to new research by the TUC, the last time statutory sick pay was lower was 19 years ago in March 2003.
Currently, statutory sick pay is worth £3 per week less in real terms now, compared to the start of the pandemic in February 2020, due to the benefit failing to adjust according to inflation and the cost-of-living.
The urgency comes as the Omicron variant has rapidly spread and coronavirus cases are the highest ever recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
As a result, the TUC has warned that hundreds of thousands of workers could be self-isolating without decent sick pay this Christmas relying on poor sick pay or none, which could lead to further unnecessary transmission.
According to the research, only a quarter of workers get decent statutory sick pay, and one in ten don’t receive the benefit at all.
Compared to Europe, the UK has the lowest sick pay of £96.35 per week and is only available to employees earning over £120 per week, meaning two million workers, mostly women, don’t qualify.
The move comes as in July, the government U-turned on the decision to remove the lower earnings limit of sick pay, which the TUC has described as “abandoning low-paid workers at the worst possible time.”
However, the government’s new temporary scheme to assist people who struggle to self-isolate has rejected two-thirds of application based on low funding and workers not being aware of it.
“No one should be forced to choose between doing the right thing and self-isolating or putting food on the table,” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said.
“But this is the reality for millions of workers up and down the country who rely on our miserly statutory sick pay or get no sick pay at all because they don’t earn enough.”
She added: “It’s a monumental failure that nearly two years into the pandemic, this vital public health tool has been ignored time and time again by the government.”
The TUC has called on the government to extend statutory sick pay protection to every worker by removing the lower earnings limit and to increase sick pay to at least the value of the real Living Wage (£346 per week).