3.7 million workers in the UK who face insecurity linked to work, whether through a lack of regular hours or income, are much more likely to miss out on receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
According to new analysis by the Trades Union Congress, workers who have insecure work are almost 10 times more likely to fail to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from their employers.
The research notes a significant disparity between insecure workers and those who are not. Over two-thirds of insecure workers (67 per cent) do not receive any money when they are off sick, compared to just 7 per cent of employees who are not in insecure work.
Previous data has already shown how this group is at a disadvantage, with two-fifths of employees being told their working patterns less than a week in advance.
Insecure workers also may fail to receive the same employee rights which other workers are entitled to including unfair dismissal and protections against redundancy.
The SSP has been staunchly criticised throughout the pandemic for failing to help low-paid workers. Currently, staff can receive £96.35 per week as a minimum amount. However, workers who earn under the threshold of £120 a week are not eligible to this financial support.
This, the TUC states, puts insecure workers at risk as many are forced to go into workplaces even if they are not fit to do so, potentially placing entire workplaces in a situation where a COVID-19 outbreak could occur.
The TUC also highlighted the financial issues that insecure workers have faced during the pandemic. Over half (55 per cent) reported a cut to their income during the pandemic. A further 44 per cent stated, as such, they were forced to cut back on making savings compared to only a third of those in secure work.
The furlough scheme has also been said to have caused three million employees to miss out on support for various reasons. Whilst workers on zero-hours contracts and agency workers could be placed on furlough, the TUC said that many employers chose to stop offering shifts to these workers, leading their work to become even more insecure.
As such, the TUC have called for the Government to abolish the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay, remove the waiting period and increase sick pay to £330 a week.
The body have also urged for new rights to be brought in which would allow working people to negotiate collectively with their employer. The TUC have also pushed for a ban on zero-hours contracts.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
No matter your race or background, everyone deserves fair pay and to be treated with dignity and respect. But during the pandemic, we’ve seen higher infections and death rates in insecure jobs. Too many workers are trapped on zero hours contracts or in other sorts of insecure work, and are hit by a triple whammy of endemic low pay, few workplace rights and low or no sick pay.
Ministers must urgently raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage, and make sure everyone can get it – including those on zero hours contracts and other forms of insecure work.
If people can’t observe self-isolation when they need to, the virus could rebound. No-one should have to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.
And ministers must tackle the scourge of insecure work by finally bringing forward their promised Employment Bill. It’s time to ban zero-hours contracts, false self-employment and to end exploitation at work.
*This research has been outlined in the TUC’s report ‘COVID-19 and Insecure Work’.