The Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank, is calling on the government to allow employers to use the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to pay self-isolating workers rather than Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

As a result, workers who need to take short-term absences (either because of ill health or the need to self-isolate) would be able to receive 80 per cent of their previous earnings. The foundation estimates that this would mean that the median worker would be entitled to £330 a week, rather than £96 in SSP.

At the moment, close to two million workers are ineligible for SSP because they do not earn above the lower earnings limit – currently £120 per week.

Because SSP eligibility is determined by weekly pay, those who are not eligible are typically workers in low-paid jobs or working part-time (or both). Indeed, the evidence indicates that 25 per cent of part-time workers are ineligible.

In addition, the figures show that women, younger and older workers, and workers with atypical contracts are all more likely than the average worker to be ineligible for SSP, due to the higher incidence of low pay or low hours among these groups.

Similarly, workers in customer-facing industries are less likely than the average worker to be eligible, with one in seven (16 per cent) workers in industries such as retail, hospitality, arts and leisure being ineligible.

The report draws particular attention to the plight of workers in sectors with a lot of social interaction, or where they are in regular close contact with vulnerable groups, who also have relatively low coverage of SSP.

According to the report, the UK was almost at the bottom of the league table for SSP and its international equivalents even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis began. Since the outbreak, however, the UK has fallen even further down the list.

The eligibility criteria, leaving out two million of the lowest paid, mean that people struggle to make do while on sick pay. This is a significant problem for individuals’ livelihoods when they have to self-isolate or they fall ill.

Given the pressures that households have already dealt with over the past nine months due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the report concludes that it is unjustifiable to continue placing the financial burden of self-isolating on the individual.

You can read the report in full here.

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