Boris Johnson announces day-one statutory sick pay to tackle Coronavirus

Boris Johnson announces new Statutory Sick Pay to battle coronavirus
Image credit: Parliament TV

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that statutory sick pay will be available from day one for those people self-isolating as a result of the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

The change to sick pay legislation, announced on 4 March 2020, is a temporary measure to respond to the outbreak of Coronavirus. Normal policy will return when emergency measures are no longer required.

Under normal circumstances, employees taking time off work due to illness are able to claim up to £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, but only once they have been away from work for more than four consecutive days.

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The government’s statement also highlighted that employers should use their discretion to accept different forms of evidence as proof of sickness; this allows for the fact that individuals are being advised to avoid attending their GPs where possible.

Johnson said: “If [employees] stay at home to self-isolate, they may lose out financially. So I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward as part of our emergency Coronavirus legislation measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay, from the very first day [an individual is] sick, instead of the four days under the current rules.”

“Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing. We are not at the point yet where we are asking large numbers of people to self-isolate, but that may of course come if large numbers have the symptoms. If they stay at home, they are helping to protect all of us by preventing the spread of the virus.”

Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said: “This is an important step forward for working people. But it’s not enough. Two million workers still don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. They can’t afford to work. And statutory sick pay still isn’t enough to live on. The government must go further to ensure that no one is penalised for doing the right thing.”

Steve Turner, assistant general secretary at trade union Unite, added: “This is a vital public health issue; the state must intervene with emergency legislation to protect workers where collective agreements or statutory protection doesn’t exist. Without decisive intervention workers simply won’t stay at home; they can’t afford to.

“Government must also intervene with respect to gig workers, the ‘self-employed’ and the millions who don’t have rights to statutory sick pay or are simply already too poor to qualify.”