Former Cabinet Ministers Priti Patel and Robert Buckland have come out to demand a “new deal” for a “safe sick pay system”, which would extend the current statutory sick pay of £110 per week to all workers from day one of succumbing to illness. The calls for reform are being headed by the Safe Sick Pay campaign, which calculates that the proposed changes would benefit around 2 million workers who aren’t currently entitled to occupational sick pay.
In a joint article today, Mrs Patel and Sir Robert say current Government policy “is, in effect, subsidising low sick pay”.
“Simple tweaks to the system would ensure all workers get sick pay paid by their employer from day one if they are ill.”
The pair also argue that the Conservative Government’s track record of getting people off benefits and into work “risks being held back by the challenge of ill health”.
“Our remarkable track record of getting people off benefits and back into work risks being held back by the challenge of ill health and the huge knock-on costs that come with it.”
The call came as Government data showed that the number of economically inactive Brits due to sickness stands at 2.5 million, the third consecutive month of increase.
In total, 500,000 workers have become economically inactive due to ill health since April 2019.
A 2019 consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions called for these same changes to statutory sick pay, however, the proposals were never taken up by the Government.
The “clear call” for change by Priti Patel and Robert Buckland was welcomed by the Safe Sick Pay campaign.
Director of the Campaign, Amanda Walters, warned that current UK sick pay entitlement is forcing some workers out of the job market entirely, despite wanting to work.
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Mrs Walters said: “Our sick pay system should be a world leader in supporting workers and businesses, but one in three workers can’t pay the bills when they get sick”.
“This is causing some people to leave the job market entirely, despite wanting to work.”
The Safe Sick Pay campaign wants three changes: to abolish the earnings threshold for Statutory Sick Pay; make Statutory Sick Pay payable from the first day of sickness; and increase sick pay to be in line with workers’ wages up to the real living wage.
It’s understood Robert Buckland and Priti Patel aren’t endorsing the final call from the Sick Pay Campaign on the weekly allowance.
For those entitled, sick pay is currently £109.40 per week and is only paid from the fourth day someone has been off ill.
Britain has one of the lowest levels of statutory sick pay in Europe.
Workers in Germany are entitled to a minimum of 70 per cent of their wage for up to 78 weeks
Sick workers in Norway, Iceland, Luxembourg and Denmark are entitled to 100 percent of their pay.
The average employee takes 4.6 days off sick each year, according to the ONS