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Coronavirus Crisis: TUC calls on the government to extend sick pay to two million low-paid workers

UNION organisation the TUC called on the government today to extend statutory sick pay (SSP) to two million low-paid workers, warning that not doing so would endanger public health.

A poll shows that 85 per cent of the public agrees that statutory sick pay must be increased to a level at which workers in quarantine can survive financially.

According to the TUC, unless the government increases sick pay, workers are likely to ignore quarantine guidelines and go to work in order to pay for food, rent and mortgages — risking the spread of the virus.

However the current rate of statutory sick pay is just £94.25 a week, with someone quarantined for 14 days receiving just £189.

The TUC calculated that this would represent a fortnightly income loss of over £800 for someone on average earnings.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of workers would not be able to cover their rent or mortgage, bills and living expenses at current sick pay levels, according to the poll carried out by YouGov.

The TUC is calling on the government to increase the rate of SSP to the real living wage of £10.75 an hour in London and £9.30 outside the capital.

It also wants the government to create an emergency fund to assist employers with the cost of covering workers not currently eligible for statutory sick pay.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “A massive majority of voters agree that no one should be left out of pocket because they’ve done the right thing and followed government health advice.

“But currently, many people won’t even be able to cover their rent and bills if they fall ill or have to take time off.

“[The] government needs to stop making excuses and immediately reform sick pay legislation so it covers all workers at a decent rate.

“It’s the sensible way to give working families the security they need — and to protect public health.”

She said that there was nothing to stop bosses immediately promising full pay to workers if they have to go into quarantine.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has set out plans contained in emergency legislation to deal with the impact of the virus, which has infected over 270 people in Britain.

The Bill, which is likely to go through Parliament by the end of the month, is expected to include measures to allow some court proceedings to be conducted via telephone or video.

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