Sick pay crisis is forcing ill staff to turn up to work as they can’t afford days off | Personal Finance | Finance


Low sick pay has pushed millions of Britain’s frontline workers to the brink of financial strain, burnout, anxiety and depression, new research shows.

The research, compiled by financial well-being experts at Wagestream, follows recent calls from MPs and campaigners for urgent reforms to be made to the country’s sick pay system.

The latest Low Pay Britain report highlighted that UK statutory sick pay “offers very little insurance against sickness, particularly when compared to other rich countries” – and is unusual in being funded solely by employers.

Sick pay is also disproportionately unfair to Britain’s lowest-income workers, which sees the 1.6 million who are earning less than £123 a week deemed ineligible for any statutory sick pay at all.

As a result, thousands of frontline workers admit fears they would need to work through illness because the current legislation means they can’t afford to take time off.

Wagestream’s survey of 2,000 respondents among a sample of 500 UK employers also found that for 91 percent, being signed off for just two weeks would put them under financial pressure.

More worryingly, existing sick pay legislation means that a quarter (28 percent) of respondents would be forced to go without heating or eating if signed off for work for two weeks or more.

The research also highlights the mental health impact that current legislation inflicts. An absence of two weeks or more would lead to feelings of anxiety and or depression for 86 percent, while almost all (92 percent) of respondents said they were worried about burning out if they have to work through illness.

One respondent said: “There have been instances where I was unable to afford to take time away from work and as a consequence was hospitalised.”

Another noted: “Having time off for a surgery required would jeopardise my ability to pay my mortgage let alone other bills. So I’m putting off the surgery and enduring the pain on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, another shared that they had to take “an entire year’s holiday” when they had to take three weeks off for a slipped disk in their neck, as Statutory Sick Pay wouldn’t cover “any” of their bills.

At present, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is worth £109.40 per week and is paid to those eligible by their employer for up to 28 weeks.

An overwhelming majority (84 percent) said that company sick pay support is “one of the most important” benefits a UK employer can offer.

In response to the findings, Emily Trant, head of impact and inclusion at Wagestream said: “The UK’s sick pay crisis requires urgent action on two fronts. Firstly, we need to ensure that no worker is left behind. It’s unacceptable that frontline workers pay more for basic services and on top of that are given less protection for their income. Secondly, it’s time to modernise policy and ensure employers aren’t left alone to solve the problem. ”

report published by WPI Economics in July predicted that the economy would receive a £4.1billion boost if every worker on Statutory Sick Pay received a higher rate of sick pay from their employer from day one. It also said changes could help reduce economic activity among the UK workforce.

Last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported an economic inactivity rate of 20.4 percent, which is 0.6 percentage points higher than before the pandemic.

Matthew Oakley, director of WPI Economics, said: “The UK’s sick pay system is just not working. This evidence shows that reforms would be a win for workers, businesses and the Government alike. Even with a conservative approach to estimating the benefits of policy change, we found that these significantly outweigh the short-term costs.”

Sir Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon, said: “Improving workers’ sick pay is a win-win policy for Rishi Sunak, supporting hard-working people and boosting our post-pandemic economic recovery. The Government should act now on this welcome evidence in order to safeguard the future health and prosperity of our nation.”

Amanda Walters, director of the Safe Sick Pay Campaign said: “Making sick pay available for everyone from the first day of illness should be a minimum guarantee if we want a healthy, productive workforce. We are asking the Government to act now on this important reform and ensure that hard-working people get the support they need to rest, recover and return to work.”

Leave A Reply