Unison have joined the GMB in calling for guaranteed sick pay for self-employed and ‘gig economy’ workers who have to self-isolate.
Unison has today become the second major union to call for guaranteed sick pay to be given to all workers affected by coronavirus.
Joining recent calls from GMB and the Labour party, Unison’s general secretary Dave Prentis today wrote to the Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey requesting “emergency measures” to force bosses to recognise any time off in self-isolation as paid sick leave.
He insisted that workers should be granted paid sick leave regardless of how much they earn or the type of job contract they are employed on.
The government have advised that self-isolation should be considered as sick leave in the usual way. However, according to Unison, there are an estimated two million workers who are currently not eligible to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) as they are either deemed to be self-employed or do not earn at least £118 per week.
The unions and Labour ministers are worried that many self-employed workers will be forced to continue to work when they have been advised to self-isolate, further risking the spread of coronavirus.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth told the BBC:
“There will be workers out there who have to make a choice between putting food on their table and putting their health first.
“We’re clearly going to have to intervene in some way to help those workers.”
Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy also joined the growing number of voices today, calling for an emergency law to extend Statutory Sick Pay – £94.25 per week – to workers on all incomes from day one.
“The threat of coronavirus is concerning enough without worrying if it will leave you without money for rent and food.
“Workers on insecure contracts, those with unscrupulous employers or the bogus self-employed in the gig economy are being left to fend for themselves and make unnecessarily difficult choices.
“Self-isolation for some means no sick pay. This is a global health crisis and we need to do everything we can to make sure it’s not also a personal and financial tragedy for families in the UK.”
In response, a Government spokesperson said that those unable to claim will be able to claim Universal Credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance, before going on to say “further action” will be taken “if needed” in order to protect those in zero-hour or low paid employment. However, they stopped short of confirming whether or not this would involve widening the scope of Statutory Sick Pay.