Coronavirus: Boris Johnson announces statutory sick pay to be available from day one for those self-isolating

But unions say measures are 'not enough' to protect low-paid and self-employed

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 04 March 2020 13:21 GMT
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PM announces sick pay will be available immediately for coronavirus patients

Emergency measures will be introduced to increase statutory sick pay for individuals by providing payments from the first day off work rather than the fourth amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Speaking at prime minister’s questions, Boris Johnson said the government would introduce legislation to ensure that people self-isolating are protected financially.

Under the existing system, those off work due to illness can claim £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, but only once an individual has been off work for four or more days in a row.

It comes as the government published its action plan to deal with the increasing cases of coronavirus in the UK and pressure to compensate employees who are following health advice in not turning up to work.

Announcing the emergency measures, Mr Johnson told MPs: “If they stay at home and if we ask people to self-isolate, they may lose out financially."

He added: “So, I can today announce that the health secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules, and I think that's the right way forward.

"Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing."

When tackled on how the measures would affect gig economy workers, Mr Johnson said “some of them will be entitled to statutory sick pay”, but added: “Others will be entitled through the existing system such as universal credit.”

Responding, Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect union, said while the measures are “welcome”, the move “will do little to help freelancers and the self-employed, who will be some of the hardest hit by self-isolation”.

He added: “Most cannot access Statutory Sick Pay, so will still be faced with the dilemma of no pay or going to work when it may be putting their colleagues at risk.

“This simply isn’t good enough. The government must recognise the risk to everyone posed by this and put in place proper support for these workers.”

Echoing Mr Clancy’s remarks, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, also said the measures were “not enough” as they two million workers did not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay.

She continued: "They can’t afford not to work. And statutory sick pay still isn’t enough to live on. Government must go further to ensure that no one is penalised for doing the right thing.”

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