A sensible decision on the part of Boris Johnson’s government? Is that a greased piglet I see flying outside?
No it’s not. BoJo’s bozos have decided that statutory sick pay should be payable for day one, rather than forcing people who are self isolating as a result of fears they may have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus to wait for the fourth day of absence as is standard.
They’ve got something right for once. Stopped clocks telling the right time twice a day and all that.
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There’s also been a belated move to declare the virus as a “notifiable disease”, thus allowing firms to claim on their insurance against losses caused by it.
Ministers deserve rather less credit for that one because they dragged their feet by comparison to the devolved administrations in Scotland and Norther Ireland although, to be fair, the Association of British Insurers pointed out that in many cases the cover will be retroactive.
Back to the main event, sick pay.
In theory, the government’s move could potentially help to persuade more people to self isolate by making doing so less of a financial dilemma.
Trouble is, the financial dilemma will still be there. Statutory sick pay is worth less than £100 a week, and requires a worker to be bring in more than £118 to be eligible (ruling out a lot of part timers).
As was always the case, people with good employers and good sick pay schemes will have the luxury of staying home (and maybe working from there) if they feel the need.
Those not in that fortunate position will likely be those less able to handle the hit they will take from moving to statutory sick pay for a couple of weeks, even with the extra few days (amounting to just under £80 in their pockets). Rent to pay? Loans? Mortgage repayments? Kids to feed? The dilemma will still be there.
And there’s still no help for people in the gig economy other than the frankly contemptible suggestion that they apply for Universal Credit if they can’t work.
Unison had the right of it when it described the sick pay move as “a good first step”. That it is. But, as the union pointed out, if you really want to slow the spread of the virus more is required because millions of people simply can’t afford to self isolate. Workers shouldn’t have to lose out for doing the right thing.