Coventry MP demands decent sick pay for all workers amid COVID-19

Zarah Sultana, MP for Coventry South, urged the Prime Minister to “act before it’s too late” by introducing a higher rate of sick pay.

Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana, this week called on the Prime Minister to urgently introduce “decent sick pay for every worker in Britain”.

Ms Sultana made the demand at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, following rising concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

She said: “Statutory sick pay in the UK is amongst the lowest rates in Europe. It’s less than £95 per week.”

The MP told the House of Commons: “If the Prime Minister doesn’t think he can live on that, it’s wrong for him to expect our constituents to live on it. So I urge him: act before it’s too late and introduce decent sick pay for every worker in Britain.”

The rate of statutory sick pay in the UK is currently £94.52 per week – one of the lowest rates in Europe, according to the Trade Union Congress. The government’s chief medical officer has said people with “minor” signs of fever will soon be asked to self-isolate, and the government has said up to 20% of workers could be asked to self-isolate.

Speaking after making her statement, Ms Sultana said: “Statutory sick pay is outrageously low in the UK. With the spread of coronavirus, working people are being forced to make the choice between staying at home but not being able to afford their bills, or going to work and risk spreading the virus. That’s not fair and it’s not safe.

“The government must urgently act to ensure every worker who needs it receives decent sick pay – the Trade Union Congress are calling for the equivalent of a week’s pay at the Real Living Wage.”

Shortly after Ms Sultana asked her question on Wednesday, the Government’s Budget was announced by the Chancellor, setting out a £12 billion package of temporary measures to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) was made available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating.

Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or low earners, were advised to claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance, and while this will help, many argue that this does not go far enough.

For the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, visit nhs.uk/coronavirus.