New research from the CIPD shows that only a third of financial support claims have been paid out to workers instructed to self-isolate. 

According to new data, only one in three workers (35 per cent) have been paid any financial support after being instructed to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace app.

In addition, it has also been found that some regions have been paying out at significantly higher rates than others, leading to concern that low-income employees have been subject to a “postcode lottery” on whether financial support will be received.

This is particularly apparent when analysing different areas in the UK. In Camden, the local authorities approved three-quarters (75 per cent) of support payment requests for self-isolating workers. However, in places such as Liverpool and Sandwell, only a quarter (23 per cent) and under a fifth (16 per cent) were paid out.

The official Government websites states that workers may be entitled to a one off-payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. This is on top of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) that employees in self-isolation are entitled to for every day they are in isolation – if eligible.

The Test and Trace support payments were introduced in order to support employees who are low-income earners and a large proportion of whom would not be eligible for SSP.

However, further data from the CIPD indicates that this may not be the case. Only a third of workers who also receive benefits (36 per cent) were approved for the support payment. Around three in 10 (31 per cent) discretionary payments for workers who do not claim benefits were paid out.

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at CIPD, said:

Our Freedom Of Information data suggests there is currently a postcode lottery on whether working people on low income receive financial compensation when they have been asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace. Lack of financial support threatens to significantly undermine the system at a time when the need for people to safely isolate at home is greater than ever before.

The Government should urgently review its operation with a view to ensuring consistency over the criteria used by councils for granting compensation payments. It must ensure that the eligibility criteria isn’t overly strict, ruling out deserving applicants who are trying to do the right thing and self-isolate under the Government’s own advice. This is increasingly important with the recent announcement to test key workers who are unable to work from home.

The review should also consider how the compensation scheme can be marketed more effectively to those told to self-isolate and, importantly, whether there is enough money allocated to councils to ensure the compensation scheme has sufficient funds for the months ahead given the surge in the pandemic and the latest lockdown.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care commented:

To date we have made £50m available, with an additional £20m to come, to ensure local authorities can make payments to people on low incomes who need to self-isolate. We are working closely with the 314 local authorities to collate information and data on how the scheme is progressing.

*This data was obtained from the CIPD’s research which included submitting Freedom of Information requests to 34 English local authorities in November 2020.