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Coronavirus: millions risk financial hardship because sick pay system is ‘inadequate’

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Citizens Advice has warned the UK’s sick pay system is inadequate to deal with the potential scale of the coronavirus outbreak and could push many into financial hardship. 

The prime minister announced last week that workers will receive statutory sick pay from the first day they are off work rather than the fourth. However, many people are not eligible for statutory sick pay including five million self-employed workers and at least 1.5 million in low-income jobs.

To qualify for statutory sick pay, you must be employed and must earn on average at least £118 per week.

Citizens Advice said it saw three times as many visits to its sick pay advice pages last week compared to the same time last year.

The charity said it was also concerned that the benefits system is ill-equipped to respond quickly to those seeking financial support if they fall unwell or need to self-isolate.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The growing outbreak is an unprecedented backdrop for this Budget. Coronavirus won’t discriminate between those eligible for sick pay and people who simply cannot afford to fall unwell.

“We know this is something front of mind for millions of people who could face the impossible choice of working while ill or ignoring guidance to self-isolate.

“The Chancellor must set out plans to broaden the pool of people eligible for statutory sick pay and ensure that the benefits system can respond flexibly to those who need it. Otherwise millions could fall through the gaps.”

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