Government must ensure coronavirus sick pay for all workers, says UNISON

Dave Prentis writes to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions asking her to amend the rules.

By Democrat reporter

The government must take emergency action to guarantee all staff statutory sick pay as soon as they self-isolate because of coronavirus fears, says UNISON today (Tuesday).

General secretary Dave Prentis has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Thérèse Coffey asking her to amend the rules so employers have to recognise the time off as sick leave and provide wages for workers from day one.

They must also pay them regardless of how much they earn or their type of job contract, he says.

It comes amid concerns that zero-hours staff who should be self-isolating will go into work out of fear they will be denied their earnings, says UNISON.

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.

An estimated 2m people currently do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, and UNISON warns many could lose earnings as a result of the Covid-19 situation unless rules are changed.

Anyone returning from affected countries such as Iran and Italy could be forced to stay away from work, along with those who have been in physical contact with infected individuals.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Employees on zero-hours or precarious contracts are already on low wages. They now face financial hardship if they have to self-isolate.

“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.”

Meanwhile, the government has said self-isolation from coronavirus counts as sick leave.

Guidance from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) states it is good practice (but not mandatory) for employers to treat self-isolation as sick leave.

Statutory sick pay is usually paid from the fourth day of sick leave. It is paid for up to 28 weeks at £94.25 a week. Self-employed workers are not entitled to sick pay, and staff currently have to earn at least £118 a week before they are eligible.

UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in both the public and private sectors.



  1. If the government in Westminster fail to provide recompense for people on zero hour contracts and or without access to Statutory Sick Pay then there will be conflict between going to work to earn money to support oneself and one’s family – and the spreading of 5h3 virus.

    The financial system is set to spread the virus. No ifs, no buts, folks cannot live on no money despite what the Tories think.

    But you know what, and this is something the Victorians learned about public health, but if the virus spreads with something like up to 80% of the population becoming infected with a death rate of 2%, they’ll be many Tories who’ll lose their lives too.

    Indeed, with the death rate being identified thus far as being around ten times greater for the over sixties, and twenty times greater for the over seventies, the corporate money men will no doubt be welcoming the potential reduction in the pension payment burden. It’s certainly not something this this government have missed as they raise the state pension age year on year.

    Cynical comments you may say but as Mrs Thatcher said, there is no community, only the individual.

  2. Yes, and three weeks ago Her Majesty’s Government were assuring us everything was under control.

    And now three weeks later we are being told the army is being prepared to deliver martial law to control movement of people, retired doctors and nurses are being recruited to come back into delivering medical care, provision is being made to ensure sufficient burial plots are available, public gatherings of all sorts may be banned as cities go into lock down.

    Quite a change in three weeks as Prime Minister Johnson now admits that it’s now no longer a question of if the virus will arrive but a question of how extensive it’s arrival will be.

    So what’s changed. Were they keeping the lid on things so the select money men could have time to prepare – and why in all this disaster planning is there no proposal to recompense millions of workers who could be asked, or forced, to stop work and then to be left without any income. Gives an insight into exactly how the Tory elite in Westminster think.

    Yes, I may be cynical, but the truth is there to see. But as a society, this is exactly what the Scottish electorate voted for time after time when they installed the Tories into power.

    Let us all pray that the virus does not become the holocaust that it could be.

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