Staff on zero-hour contracts, including many social care workers, may not be entitled to sick pay if they have to self-isolate because of coronavirus, public service union, UNISON, warned.
The Prime Minister has announced Statutory Sick Pay will be made available from day one for those who are self-isolating, instead of day four.
However, according to UNISON, an estimated 2m people currently do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, the threshold is £118 per week, and could, therefore, lose earnings as a result of the Covid-19 situation.
UNISON warned that, unless rules are changed, zero-hours staff who should be self-isolating will go into work out of fear they will be denied their earnings.
They include social care staff supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, including the elderly and sick who are most at risk if they become infected.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: ‘It’s good to see the government listening and acting to allay people’s fears, but it needs to go much further, and quickly.
‘This move won’t help care staff whose employers are telling them they won’t get paid at all if they go into isolation.
‘Nor will it provide comfort to workers on zero-hours contracts, or those with multiple jobs bringing in less than the £118 weekly threshold at which sick pay kicks in.
‘Workers self-isolating shouldn’t have to take a financial hit for doing the right thing. They should be paid in full, with the government stepping in to help out struggling smaller employers.
‘Every boss in the land should be following government advice and paying everyone who thinks they’ve come into contact with coronavirus and sensibly intends to do the right thing.
‘People shouldn’t be faced with a choice of making ends meet or following public health advice and helping prevent the spread of the virus. The lives and livelihoods of vulnerable patients and staff must come before profits.
‘The government must bring in emergency measures so these low-paid workers are protected financially, particularly those caring for the most vulnerable in society.
‘It should be made compulsory for employers to give them sick pay, even if they’re not officially eligible.’
Self-isolation applies to people waiting for Covid-19 test result and people who have been in close contact with someone with coronavirus.
It also applies to travellers who have returned from China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand in the past 14 days, and those who have returned from northern Italy, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar or Vietnam since February 19.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said:
‘Statutory Sick Pay is paid by employers, who will know the reason their staff are giving for not being at work and already have some discretion to accept different forms of evidence as proof of sickness.
‘There is a range of support in place for those who do not receive Statutory Sick Pay, including Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance.’
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