Current rate of SSP can be seen as a "financial disincentive to self-isolate"

The current rate of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be seen as a “financial disincentive to self-isolate”, leading to employees who are showing mild COVID-19 symptoms to continue to work.

This comes from the Royal Society report ‘Economic aspects of the COVID-19 crisis in the UK’ and explains that due to SSP, workers are more likely to continue working whilst showing signs of the virus which in turn makes it harder to control the transmission of COVID-19.

The report asks the Government to extend SSP, especially as the furlough system comes to an end in October.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD said:

The Government should compensate employers for continuing to pay staff their normal wages if they are asked to self-isolate because SSP is not sufficient for many people even if they do qualify, and many don’t.

There needs to be a compensation scheme to ensure that anyone who is asked to self-isolate through the official system is not disadvantaged for doing the right thing.

The report makes several other recommendations as well. To introduce workplace rotation shifts to reduce the chances of too many workers being in the office and adding to the chance of the spread of the virus. Workplace testing should be incentivised in order to control any workplace outbreaks such as test, track and isolate (TTI) programmes.

Attention must be given to reopening schools, as this has a huge impact on working parents. Schools must be ready for a possible second wave of the virus and focus needs to be put on the timing of the end of the furlough scheme and when pupils will return to schools.  Also, the Government should consider a flexible furlough scheme which could help open the labour market up as there is a possibility that the economic disruption of the pandemic will continue in 2021.

It also warned against a “premature” lifting of lockdown as their needs to be a “cautious and prolonged” reopening of the economy. This will allow companies to fully implement social distancing rules.

Sir Tim Besley CBE, school professor of economics and political science at London School of Economics (LSE) and one of the report’s authors said:

Pitting health and economic outcomes against each other is unhelpful. It is wrong to assume that the only way to get the economy back on its feet is through an excessive loosening of restrictions. Targeted policies that are sensitive both to the spread of the disease and economic costs are needed.

While physical distancing measures negatively impact certain businesses, there are adaptations we can make to our ways of doing business. An optimal public health strategy will complement economic recovery while minimising the risk of a resurgence of the epidemic. By taking the right measures to protect health – for example by getting test-track-isolate right and introducing more than the minimum statutory sick pay for those who don’t have it – we open up many more doors for businesses that can keep people working and assist in containing the spread of the disease.