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MPs' plan to boost statutory sick pay would end ‘disgrace’ against female workers, TUC says

UNIONS have welcomed calls by MPs for an increase in statutory sick pay (SSP), saying it is a “disgrace” that workers lack proper support while too ill to work, with women worst affected.

The work and pensions committee called for a “modest” SSP increase from £109.40 a week to £172.48, in line with statutory maternity pay, adding it should also be made more widely available.

It added that of all the proposals for increasing SSP this would strike the best balance between business needs and supporting workers.

The MPs also said all workers should be eligible for SSP, not just those earning above the lower earnings limit.

Committee chairman Sir Stephen Timms said: “Statutory sick pay is failing in its primary purpose to act as a safety net for workers who most need financial help during illness.

“With the country continuing to face high rates of sickness absence, the government can no longer afford to keep kicking the can down the road on reform.”

TUC analysis previously showed 1.3 million people do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay, with 70 per cent of those affected being women.

It also found that zero-hours contract workers are eight times more likely than those on secure contracts to miss out on statutory sick pay because they do not earn enough to qualify. 

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The Covid-19 pandemic showed that our sick pay system is in desperate need of reform.

“It beggars belief that ministers have done nothing to fix sick pay since.

“It’s a disgrace that so many low-paid and insecure workers up and down the country – most of them women – have to go without financial support when sick.

“The committee is right that ministers urgently need to remove the lower earnings limit and raise the rate of sick pay.

“Wider reform is also needed to remove the three days people must wait before they get any sick pay at all.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea called the current weekly rate “woefully low” and in need of “a substantial boost.”

She said:  “Too often, unwell staff end up going into work because they can’t afford to survive on paltry sick pay.   

“This dire situation was highlighted during Covid when infected care staff were unable to stop home and isolate.

“The consequences were disastrous.

“The government must act so no-one suffers financially when they have to take time off to recover from illness or injury.”

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