Over the past twelve months the problems with the need to protect one’s health and the need to put food on the table while carrying out a job has become glaringly apparent in the UK. Those in secure roles, for example managerial or professional roles, with the ability to work at home safely, along with the security of sick pay, have experienced a different pandemic reality compared to those who are on zero hours temporary contracts that require them to leave home every morning, no matter what. This has brought forward the uncomfortable truth which has now been revealed by the recent Trade Union Congress research. Those who work in insecure roles are twice as likely to die from Covid- 19.
The unforeseen danger that these inequalities have highlighted are ones that many campaigners have worked to reduce long before the pandemic began. The research has highlighted that those such as care workers or delivery drivers commonly have fewer rights, no sick pay and experience a level of pay that is far below the living wage. Many of these roles exist on temporary contracts and have variable hours depending on the need at the time. When considering roles of care workers for example, who look after the most vulnerable in our society, these are roles that are often underpaid and underappreciated, given the important nature of the work. Without the correct support, workers in these roles are facing decisions that they should never be presented with. Do they take unpaid time off work to get the vaccine or ensure they work their shift to look after the person who needs their help (and may be shielding) and pay their own bills. The same question presents when they become unwell.
An employee is entitled to statutory sick pay as long as they are:
- Currently working for their employer
- Sick for more than 5 days or more (including non-working days) OR they have been told to self-isolate because of Covid-19.
- Earn more than £120 a week
- Those that are entitled to statutory sick pay can get £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks.
Those who are not unwell but are told to self-isolate, may be entitled to statutory sick pay on the first day they do, if they tell their employer immediately and will be entitled to this for up to 11 days from then on, unless they become unwell, in which case it will continue on.
To assist those who are faced with the reality that they must self-isolate, and face a drop in income, the Government have introduced a self-isolation payment grant of up to £500. The payments are designed to mitigate the difficulties of those who would otherwise be required to work, to stop the spread of the virus and limit the financial hardship they would face otherwise.
At present those who are not entitled to any further statutory sick pay are:
- Those who are self-employed
- Those who have already had SSP for 28 weeks (and the 28 weeks ended within the last 8 weeks)
- Those who have had Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the last 12 weeks
- Those who are getting statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance
- Those who are pregnant or have a pregnancy related illness.
- Those who are in the armed forces
- Those who are in prison.
These steps do start to address the immediate problems faced by those who work in the zero hours industry however as the research highlights, it does not solve the problems faced.
Blog by Stephanie Spencer