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Three-quarters of low-paid workers cannot afford to take sick leave – an Usdaw survey finds

Date: 05 December 2022 Retail trade union Usdaw continues to call for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) reform following the union’s survey finding that 76% of respondents cannot afford to take sick leave, rising to 9 in 10 for those on in-work benefits, because of the cost of living crisis and very low SSP at just £99.35 a week. Usdaw surveyed over 7,500 members, who are mainly low-paid key workers in retail.
Usdaw is calling for the Government to deliver a new deal on Statutory Sick Pay:
  • Improve SSP so it reflects an individual’s average pay, rather than the current £99.35 per week (rising to £109.40 from 6 April 2023).
  • Pay SSP to low-paid workers. Those earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 per week currently do not qualify for SSP.
  • Commit to paying SSP from day one for all absences, removing any reference to three waiting days. 
Paddy Lillis - Usdaw General Secretary says: “The UK has one of the lowest rates of Statutory Sick Pay of any developed country. Being ill has a huge financial impact on low-paid workers, because they are forced to live on just £99.35 per week. Even worse, those that earn less than £123 per week are not entitled to be paid. The Government must remove this discriminatory policy, so all workers are entitled to sick pay based on their normal rate of pay.
“With inflation soaring, the costs of everyday items rising and energy bills skyrocketing, far too many low-paid workers feel they cannot afford to be ill. They should not have to live in fear of being unable to pay the bills when they need time off to recover from illness.
“Trade unions secured Statutory Sick Pay from day one for Covid absences during the pandemic, which was later removed by the Government. It shouldn’t take a pandemic for key workers to be able to claim sick pay from the first day they are ill, rather than the fourth day. Sick pay needs to be paid from day one, at an individual’s normal rate of pay.
“We need urgent reform of Statutory Sick Pay as part of a new deal for workers. The Government promised we’d ‘build back better’ after Covid, but they’re simply reverting to ‘business as usual’. Only Labour is pledged to increase SSP and make it available to all workers. That is one of many reasons why we need a general election and a change of government.”
Voices of low-paid key workers struggling with poor Statutory Sick Pay:
  • “I have just been diagnosed with cancer so will have to be absent from work for a prolonged time to receive treatment. Sick pay will not cover outgoings so I will fall into debt. This is a major worry.”
  • “Next year I am having a full knee replacement and I’m over stressing about the amount of time I will have to have off work and coping on sick pay.”
  • “I’ve been off work because of a broken ankle and thanks to poor SSP, no help from PIP, the increase in everything, I have had to revoke my sick note and go back early to stay on top of the bills.”
  • “I don’t earn enough to get sick pay from anyone, I need 2 weeks off for an operation and will lose money which makes me push myself before I’m healed to get back to work!!!”
  • “It is going to get worse, I am presently using my holidays up then will go onto company sick pay. Sick pay is only for 8 weeks then I get statutory sick pay. I have cancer and it will take 6 months for my treatment, and hopefully that will be it gone and I can get back to work. How I am going to pay all my bills then is a huge worry.” 
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with around 360,000 members. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemical industry and other trades.
Labour’s New Deal for Workers: www.usdaw.org.uk/LaboursNDW
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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The official website of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers