Sick pay is an essential part of a social safety net. It means that when we become too ill to work, there is support there for us to stop us going destitute or having to go in anyway.
Yet we have a massive problem. Sick pay in the United Kingdom is amongst the lowest in Europe.
The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is just £96.35 per week for 28 weeks. By comparison, countries like Iceland, Norway and Denmark offer 100% of previous earnings as sick pay. Germany offers 50% for 84 weeks, and Switzerland offers 103 weeks on 80% pay.
Our sick pay doesn’t take into account people’s previous earnings or how much they may need to live off. For those on zero hours or temporary contracts, who will not have any employer sick pay, being ill will mean an instant sharp drop in income. It also does not take into account whether anybody previously received any sick pay from their employer, meaning that those on lower paid insecure work are likely to feel the pinch harder.
Having such an early cut off period is especially punitive, as those who are most negatively impacted by it are those with long-term conditions such as mental health issues or cancer.
The pandemic has showed us more than ever the importance of sick pay. If someone is unwell, they need time at home to recuperate both for their own health and for the health of others. The pandemic also demonstrated that the government can act to increase the social safety net when it has the political will to do so.
Sick pay in the United Kingdom is amongst the lowest in Europe.
Nobody should be one illness away from financial ruin. As we emerge from the pandemic, and begin to compete for a better working world, we’re campaigning for statutory sick pay to be significantly increased and extended to all workers including the self-employed.
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