Around a quarter of a million private sector workers, including supermarket staff, were self-isolating last month without decent sick pay or any sick pay at all, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed.
An analysis published by the TUC showed between the 13 to 26 December around 267,800 were self-isolating without decent sick pay or any at all.
Around 209,900 workers had to rely on statutory sick pay which falls below basic living costs and 57,900 didn’t receive any sick pay at all.
The news comes as the food sector has suffered Omicron induced staff shortages.
READ MORE: Ocado cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff
Earlier this month, Iceland’s chief executive urged the government to reduce self-isolation period to alleviate staff shortages.
From 17 January, Health Secretary Sajid Javid reduced minimum self-isolation period from seven full days to five.
However, the trade union has warned reducing isolation periods “won’t fix the UK’s fundamental sick pay problem”.
“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 that was exactly the choice facing a quarter of a million private sector workers last month, as the Omicron variant raged across the country. This is a serious public health failure.”
Furthermore, the TUC has warned against cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff as it is “no way to encourage vaccination” and that workers must then rely on £96.35 per week.
The announcement comes as grocery retailers such as Ocado announced reducing sick pay for unvaccinated workers isolating due to exposure to the virus.
“Unions have been encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. But cutting sick pay is no way to encourage workers to get the jab,” O’Grady said.
“It would be an own goal for public health too, risking further transmission of the virus.”
Last month, the union called on ministers to deliver decent sick pay for all as UK workers face the lowest sick pay in two decades and the lowest in Europe.
O’Grady added: “Ministers can’t continue to turn a blind eye to this vital public health tool. We need decent sick pay – paid at the real Living Wage – available to everyone.”