The government’s worst-case scenario sees up to twenty per cent of the workforce staying at home either because they are sick or to self-isolate. But will they get paid? Businesses, employer groups and unions have pointed out that many workers may not be entitled to any sick pay. As a result, Labour has called for the introduction of emergency legislation to deal with self-isolation sick pay in the short-term and firm up the rights of the self-employed and zero-hour contract workers overall. Without safeguards, many workers could be forced into financial hardship when following the official advice to self-isolate.
Citizens Advice warn millions could be facing poverty if they follow self-isolation advice
According to Citizens Advice, up to six and a half million workers may not be entitled to any pay or benefits. They may have to face the hard choice between following government advice to self-isolate and making ends meet. Among them, five million self-employed workers and one and a half low-paid staff. While some part-time staff receive sick pay, it is up to the employer to decide whether to pay them. For the self-employed, the situation may even be worse because they may not be able to claim any benefits.
If the government’s worst-case scenario materialises, these workers could face weeks without pay. Citizens Advice has called on the government to “promote and clarify sick pay rights, in particular for agency workers and people on zero-hour contracts, as well as for those who self-isolate.” Furthermore, the charity wants the government to “make sure people can access quick financial support if they are not eligible for statutory sick pay, for example, if they are self-employed.”
Over the last few days, questions concerning worker’s rights to sick pay and self-isolation sick pay, in particular, have arisen. A lack of clarity is evident, and in the coming days and weeks, the UK government will have to provide answers and factor in self-isolation sick pay when responding to the coronavirus-crisis.
Labour wants more than self-isolation sick pay legislation
Speaking to Sophie Ridge on Sky News, Shadow Employment Rights Secretary, Rachael Maskell, called on the government to introduce emergency legislation.
Responding to Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, at the House of Commons yesterday, she said:
“While the Health Secretary (Matt Hancock) has said that employers should view isolation as sick leave, the law does not state that.”
“Even if this was so, those on zero-hour contracts and in insecure work are unlikely to have sickness cover, and statutory sick pay does not pay for the first three days, meaning those with little means have to choose between health and hardship – an issue I raised with the health minister a month ago.”
In response, Mr Sharma told MPs that those not qualifying for sick pay including the self-employed may be able to either claim “Universal Credit and/or new-style employment and support allowance.”