The GMB union is calling on all employers to pay their workers if they have to self-isolate due to the coronavirus – including their “zero-hour” workers.
The growing threat of the coronavirus outbreak could leave millions of low paid and gig economy workers “abandoned and penniless”, the GMB union has warned.
The general union flagged up a recent case that saw a delivery driver told to self-isolate, who was subsequently left with no way to earn until they were given the all-clear.
The union stepped in and persuaded the company to relax their stance, but GMB have now warned that this was not an isolated incident and the issue is set to get much worse in the coming weeks and months.
GMB’s national officer Mick Rix said:
“The threat of coronavirus is a huge problem for employers and workers across the UK.
“But workers in the so-called gig economy, or on zero-hours contracts, are left abandoned and penniless if they have to self-isolate.
“Once again the bogus self-employment model is screwing over the disadvantaged.
“GMB is calling on all employers — regardless of the contract — to do the right thing and pay their workers if they have to take time off due to the global health crisis.”
The TUC have also raised the issue of self-employed workers facing self-isolation, saying that low-paid workers would not qualify for sick pay if they go into voluntary isolation as people who are paid less than £118 per week are not eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). According to the union, approximately two million UK workers are currently not paid enough to qualify for SSP.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said:
“Employers have a duty of care to support workers affected by coronavirus.
“No-one should have to worry about making ends meet if they have to self-isolate or if they fall ill. They should be able to focus on getting better.
“The threat of coronavirus shows why sick pay should be a day-one right for everybody.
“It’s not right that millions of UK workers miss out on this protection. The government must ensure everyone gets statutory sick pay, however much they earn.”
There are now growing fears that the lack of provision for gig economy workers could lead to many who should be self-isolating choosing to carry on working instead – further adding to the risk of the virus spreading.