Sunday 31 May 2020 / 8:35 AM Anneliese Dodds / Coronavirus / Jonathan Reynolds

Labour urges government to mind the gap on test and trace scheme sick pay

Labour is urging the government to plug gaps in Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provision which risk forcing both people and businesses to choose between public health and paying their bills as the Coronavirus test and trace scheme launches.

Businesses with over 250 employees cannot claim back SSP from HMRC when employees have been told to self-isolate under the new scheme. This risks placing further financial stress on larger retail and food businesses which rely on face-to-face contact, with revenues already suffering as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Equally, the self-employed and low paid do not qualify for SSP at all, so many could be faced with an impossible choice of foregoing earnings when told to self-isolate if they cannot work from home. Those who do qualify will receive one of the lowest rates of SSP in Europe, which the Government should urgently address to make sure people have what they need to meet basic living standards for themselves and their families.

Labour is calling on the government to look at extending assistance so that both people and businesses are supported when they comply with instructions to self-isolate.

Anneliese Dodds, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, said:

“We all want to give the test and trace scheme the best chance of succeeding so the country can begin to safely ease lockdown and get the economy back on its feet. But without giving businesses the extra financial support they need to make sure their employees can self-isolate, we risk pushing them into further financial distress when they are already overstretched.

“The Government should urgently consider extending SSP support to larger businesses that rely on face-to-face contact so that they, in turn, can support public health objectives, exactly as they have done with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”

Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

“The Covid-19 crisis has exposed that our social security system is a safety net with too many holes in. The eligibility criteria for SSP has the same gaps, and if they are not filled, a cohort of people will be expected to make an impossible choice between self-isolating or putting food on the table.

“The Government must consider how emergency support can be made available for people in this situation, or otherwise risk the success of the scheme and pushing those who do comply but cannot work as a result into further hardship.

“This must be part of an overall consideration of our levels of support as a country. Even the Health Minister himself has admitted that he could not survive on the current rate of SSP.”