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Unions accuse government of abandoning low-paid workers over sick pay

According to analysis by the TUC, two million workers in Britain do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay

UNION leaders across Britain have accused the Tory government of abandoning low-paid workers after it ditched plans to reform statutory sick pay (SSP). 

Ministers have reneged on a planned overhaul of SSP, including the removal of the lower earnings limit to allow all workers access to support.

According to analysis by the TUC, two million workers in Britain do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, 70 per cent of whom are women.

The government launched a consultation in November 2019, promising to look specifically at removing the lower earnings limit.

As recently as January, ministers promised reforms that would address the level of sick pay and the lower earnings limit, but they have now been blocked by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The TUC branded this U-turn grossly irresponsible and yet another example of penny-pinching.

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time.

“Rather than supporting people to self-isolate, ministers are making it financially impossible.

“This boils down to political choices.”

In Scotland, the STUC warned that the government was risking everyone’s health at this crucial time after it maintained that the coronavirus crisis was “not the right time to introduce changes to the rate of SSP or its eligibility criteria.”

The government claimed that the pandemic offered it a chance to take a “broader look at the role of SSP,” but the STUC said that the broken promise of imminent change was an “absolute scandal.”

General secretary Roz Foyer said: “For workers to properly follow the current guidance, support must be there for them to do so without falling into debt, missing rent payments or being unable to provide for themselves and their dependants.”

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