2m ineligible for sick pay undermines ‘test, trace and isolate’, warns Labour

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Anneliese Dodds has warned that leaving two million people in the country ineligible for statutory sick pay undermines the government’s test and trace programme and efforts to prevent a second wave.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak today, the Shadow Chancellor wrote that the government has “put its faith in a system of test, trace and isolate” but added that the “isolate” part of the strategy is being put at risk by his economic policy.

In particular, she highlighted analysis from the TUC, which estimated that two million people are not eligible to claim sick pay and therefore have no income to rely on if instructed to isolate through the government’s tracing programme.

Dodds wrote: “The government was too slow to scale up testing, there were multiple failures in developing an effective contact tracing app on time and the NHS test and trace programme is still failing to reach significant numbers of people.

“However, even if test and trace were working as effectively as possible, the government’s economic choices would still be putting the ‘isolate’ element of the strategy at risk.”

Dodds went on to explain that even people who can claim statutory sick pay then have to get by with £95.85 per week. She reminded the Chancellor that the Health Secretary Matt Hancock had said in March that he could not live on that income.

TUC general secretary France O’Grady has slammed the lack of support for those the government is asking to stay at home instead of going to work. She said: “It’s not viable to ask people to self-isolate if they are pushed into hardship.

“The government needs to ensure that anyone who has to self-isolate has access to decent financial support, meaning access to sick pay.”

Head of the government’s coronavirus “test and trace” programme Dido Harding has also raised concerns over the absence of support for people facing the need to take time off work but unable to claim.

She told a press briefing: “It’s particularly challenging for that workforce… I continue to make the case that we need to think about how we support people in those lowest paid roles and the self employed.”

In order to qualify for statutory sick pay, workers in the UK have to meet the minimum income threshold. This means that they must earn at least £120 a week to be eligible.

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