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Track & Trace may fail without financial support for people who self-isolate

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

NHS Test and Trace may fail without a decent income for all workers who must self-isolate, according to the TUC.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is calling on the Government to make sure all workers have financial support to comply with social isolation requirements under the NHS Test and Trace scheme.

Anyone in England with coronavirus symptoms can now get a test. If it’s positive, you’ll be asked to enter your details on to the NHS Test and Trace website. You’ll then be asked for the names and contact details of people you have been in close contact with in the 48 hours before your symptoms started. These people will be contacted and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

But the TUC warns that inadequate sick pay could stop people acting on public health requests to self-isolate.

Many workers benefit from contractual sick pay, paid for by their employer. But about seven million employees – a quarter of the workforce – have only the protection of statutory sick pay (SSP).

SSP pays just £95.85 per week, which is too little for many families to live on.

About two million of the lowest waged employees do not even qualify for SSP, because their earnings fall below the qualifying income threshold.

Employees who do not qualify for statutory sick pay include:

  • A third (34%) of workers on zero-hours contracts
  • One in 10 female workers
  • A fifth (22%) of workers aged 16 to 24
  • A quarter (26%) of workers aged 65 and over

The TUC is calling for government to bring in emergency legislation to ensure that SSP covers all employees, regardless of how much they earn. It is also asking for an increase in the weekly amount of SSP to the equivalent of a week’s work at the National Living Wage (£325 a week).

The TUC is also calling for a legal duty on employers not to penalise or discriminate against any workers who are required to self-isolate once or repeatedly by NHS Track and Trace.

Frances O’Grady,  TUC general secretary,  says: “Statutory sick pay is too low for anyone to live on. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, admitted he couldn’t live on it – and neither can millions of other workers.

“Everyone wants NHS Test and Trace to work, so we can all get on with our lives. But it’s not viable to ask people to self-isolate, perhaps repeatedly, if they will be pushed into financial hardship by doing so.

“Instead they will be forced to keep working. That puts them at risk – and their family, workmates and local community too.

“The government must raise statutory sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage – £325 per week. And it must make sure low-paid workers can get it. That’s how to show that we really are all in this together.”