Should Statutory Sick Pay be increased?

Should Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) be increased to help the NHS Test and Trace system be fully effective?

With the ever growing need for the UK population to use the NHS Test and Trace system to help combat the spread of COVID-19 and to get the UK economy back on track, there is concern that the effectiveness of the NHS Test and Trace system will diminish due to the low rate of SSP which employees would be on should they need to self-isolate. The question is being asked whether this rate should be increased to ensure workers adhere to the government guidelines.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has carried out research which shows that more than two-fifths (43 per cent) of workers would find themselves in financial difficulty if they were forced to self-isolate for two weeks on SSP in line with the current COVID-19 guidelines. If a worker earns less than £15,000 per annum, then this number rises to 50 per cent. Just under half (47 per cent) of employees earning below £29,000 said they could not cope financially on SSP. (HR Review)

In March, Boris Johnson announced that employees will be entitled to SSP from day one instead of the fourth day off due to the spread of COVID-19. However, the current rate of SSP is £95.85 per week, which is one of the lowest levels offered in Europe.

Unfortunately, the lack of decent sick pay puts everything at risk. Expecting workers to self-isolate on £96 a week is not viable when many don’t have savings to fall back on.

The country risks being faced with a situation where people are forced to choose between their health and paying their bills.

Due to these reasons, the TUC is calling on the Government to increase the rate of SSP to the real living wage of £320 a week.

Employers can opt to pay their workers full pay should they need to isolate but pressure is mounting for the government to step in and help businesses who cannot afford to pay full pay while employees are isolating. Without it, Britain may be ill-prepared for a second wave of infections or more local lockdowns.

Anna Craig, Managing Consultant, Bradfield HR

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