The government has announced that it has widened the criteria for accessing the workplace rapid testing programme from businesses with more than 250 employees, to those with more than 50. An online portal has also been launched to make it easier for businesses to order coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid lateral flow tests for their employees.
The problem, particularly for the low paid on zero hours contracts, is that there is often little or no protection for workers who test positive and then have to self-isolate. Although some will be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment, the TUC has found that demand for these payments (which are administered by local authorities) is significantly outstripping the available funding.
The TUC found that the funding shortfall has resulted in 90 per cent of applications to the discretionary scheme being rejected in a quarter of councils. In six local authorities, only one or two per cent of applications were accepted and for workers forced to self-isolate but unable to work from home, 20 per cent received no sick pay (or wages) at all.
Perhaps not surprisingly, another study by the TUC found that more than a third (37 per cent) of workers said that their household had suffered a reduction in disposable income since the pandemic began. This rose to half for workers with annual earnings below £15k. The lowest earners are also the most likely to have had to reduce spending and take on debt.
The TUC therefore wants the government to:
- Extend the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to the end of 2021
- Create a wage floorwithin JRS to prevent furlough pay falling below the minimum wage
- Retain the £20 per week increase in universal credit
- Increasechild benefit and child tax credit and remove the two-child limit
- Raise statutory sick pay (SSP) to £330 per week (to match the level of the real Living Wage) and extend eligibility to the two million low-paid workers currently excluded from SSP
- Raise the national minimum wage to at least £10 per hour.
To read the TUC studies in more detail, go to:
You can find more information on claiming financial support under the test and trace scheme here.