UK Sick Man of Europe on Sick Pay

Ahead of the budget, the SNP has renewed calls for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to be increased in line with a Real Living Wage and made available to all for 52 weeks – saying that right now the UK is the ‘sick man of Europe’ when it comes to sick pay.

The UK has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe, with the Council of Europe describing it as “manifestly inadequate” – yet it is the main support available for employees who need to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has estimated that the average employee earning £531 a week would experience an 82% drop in pay in their first week off sick on statutory sick pay (SSP) and the Women’s Budget Group has revealed that women are less likely than men to qualify for SSP.

House of Commons Library research has shown that those who have been on the front line in tackling Covid-19 and keeping crucial services running – and more at risk of catching the virus – would lose out on up to 83% of their pay if they went off sick.

The self-employed and employees earning less than £120 per week do not qualify for SSP.

Research from the Resolution Foundation shows that this means 1 in 4 part-time workers and 1 in 7 workers in retail, hospitality and leisure are left with no income if they have to self-isolate at home.

Commenting, the SNP’s Health spokesperson Philippa Whitford MP (pictured) said:

“It is shameful that we are almost a year into a global health pandemic, in which self-isolating is crucial to getting Covid infections down, but the UK is still the sick man of Europe when it comes to sick pay.

“Statutory sick pay in its current form is one of the lowest in Europe and not flexible enough to meet the needs of real people.

“We need a system fit for the 21st century and the current global health pandemic yet the Tories are so out-of-touch with reality that they either cannot or will not recognise this.

“The UK government must use the upcoming budget to increase and extend sick pay.

“It is shameful that the Tories are forcing people and families into a position where they have to risk their health, and the health of others, just to put food on the table.

“The welfare system – including sick pay – is supposed to be a safety net for people when their circumstances change through no fault of their own.

“With the full powers of independence, the Scottish Government would have the ability to provide a social security system that meets people’s needs and ensures they are not driven into financial hardship by Coronavirus or any other illness – as other European countries do.”