Extend sick pay to all workers

As the Olympics take place, Community is calling for a better world of work for everyone. This blog is part of a ten part series outlining the changes we want to see to create that better world.

Imagine you become unwell, and you are unable to receive sick pay. You have to choose between working through it, or going without income.

This may sound like a cruel scenario, but it is in fact a reality for millions of low paid workers who do not earn enough to qualify for sick pay, as well as millions of self-employed people across the country.

At the moment, if self-employed person becomes too unwell to work their only option is to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA). This, however, is incredibly bureaucratic and difficult to claim.

At it’s most extreme, if you are a self-employed person and you are diagnosed with cancer and are unable to work, your only options are Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance.

Other countries, such as Denmark, already have systems in place to provide sick pay to those in non-traditional styles of employment like the self-employed based on previous income. The pandemic showed us that, when needed, our government is more than capable of establishing systems to provide those kind of safety nets when it has the will to do so.

The self-employed are workers too, and are the hidden backbone of the British economy. They make up roughly 15% of our workforce and being pivotal to the UK’s fastest growing and innovative industries such as in science, engineering, healthcare, the arts, entertainment, the media and in the delivery of other important services across the country.

This year, the self-employed will contribute an estimated £125bn in turnover to the UK’s economic recovery. The contribution that self-employed workers make to our country and local economies is vital. From the way the government has acted over the last year, however, you’d often struggle to believe it.

“The pandemic showed us that, when needed, our government is more than capable of establishing systems to provide those kind of safety nets.”

Self-employed workers should not be constantly living one illness away from financial destitution. They deserve the same right to sick pay as everybody else. As we compete for a better working world post-pandemic, we’re calling for sick pay to be increased and extended to all workers.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at help@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

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