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Workers on low wages are among those most likely to lack access to sick pay, finds new IPPR research

WORKERS on low wages are among those most likely to lack access to sick pay, new research released today shows.

Older people and those from ethnic minorities are also considered at risk of missing out, the study from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says.

The think tank’s probe indicates that there is a “class disparity” in accessing pay when someone is unable to work due to illness.

Workers in outdoor trades, such as farming and construction, are five times more likely to miss out than bosses, while those in manufacturing, manual trades, beauty, transportation and catering are around twice as likely to be worse off, the report warns. 

The body stressed that too many workers are going unsupported because of Britain’s chronically poor statutory sick pay rate of just £96.35 a week – among the lowest in Europe.

Those who earn less than £120 a week are not entitled to any payment. 

The think tank’s Dr Parth Patel said: “Sick pay rates in the UK are among the lowest in the developed world, but until now it has been very poorly understood which workers actually lack access to any sick pay whatsoever.

“The class, race and age disparities in sick pay access revealed by this new analysis risk entrenching the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and constraining the UK’s ability to ‘live with Covid.’

“As the cost-of-living crisis takes hold, it will only become harder for people to isolate, which makes it even more important that the government acts now to raise sick pay and make it available to all workers.”

Calling for a “complete overhaul” of the system, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Often those earning the least either don’t qualify or face such a steep drop in income that they’re forced to carry on working when they shouldn’t.

“Those who are ill or isolating should be given their proper pay rate as soon as they’re ill. That’s the way to ensure those on poverty wages don’t struggle to pay the bills.”

Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis called for sick pay to be “paid from day one at an individual’s normal rate of pay” for all workers. 

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth slammed the refusal of Tory ministers to act as “one of the most damning failures” of their pandemic response.


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