Although the government has reduced the self-isolation period for anyone suffering from coronavirus (COVID-19) from seven to five days (subject to testing), the TUC points out that it still hasn’t addressed the UK’s fundamental sick pay problem.

It warns that, without decent sick pay being made available to everyone, workers on low or no sick pay will still face an impossible choice - whether to self-isolate and face hardship, or put food on the table and potentially spread the virus.

The warning coincided with a TUC publication of new analysis which estimates that just over a quarter of a million private sector workers were self-isolating without decent sick pay or any sick pay at all last month. About 210,000 workers had to rely on statutory sick pay, which is too low to meet basic living costs, while 57,900 received no sick pay at all.

The analysis is based on new data from the Office for National Statistics which estimates that 2.7 per cent of the private sector workforce – around 723,900 workers – were off work with coronavirus (COVID-19) from 13 to 26 December, as the Omicron variant swept across the country.

According to TUC polling conducted by Britain Thinks, around three in 10 private sector workers rely on statutory sick pay, and just under one in 10 get nothing – meaning that over a third are left without decent sick pay or any sick pay at all.

The TUC points out that the UK has the least generous statutory sick pay in Europe, worth just £96.35 per week. In addition, it is only available to employees earning £120 per week or more – meaning two million workers nationwide, mostly women, do not qualify.

The union body has also criticised announcements from companies such as Ikea and Next that they will cut sick pay for unvaccinated workers, warning that it is not the way to encourage workers to get the jab.

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