Sick pay could be extended to low paid workers
Author: Ingrid Torjesen
The government is planning to extend statutory sick pay to two million workers who do not currently qualify for it because they are earn too little.
Currently, employees must earn £118 per week, the equivalent of 14 hours on the minimum wage to qualify for statutory sick pay, but the government is looking at whether to extend eligibility to those earning below this threshold.
The proposals would extend statutory sick pay to over one million people who work less than 16 hours per week. Over one million workers estimated to be working in the "gig" economy – that is on freelance or short-term contracts – could also be covered provided they met certain criteria.
Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd said: “I want Britain to be an environment where disabled people and those with health conditions can thrive, not just survive – not only in work but every area of their lives.”
She added: “Good work is good for our mental and physical health, and by working closely with employers we can help prevent the loss of talent when people unnecessarily leave the workplace.”
Each year more than 100,000 people leave their job following a period of sickness absence lasting at least four weeks, and the longer somebody is on sickness absence the more likely they are to fall out of work, with 44% of people who had been off sick for a year leaving employment altogether.
Evidence shows that early intervention by an employer is important in reducing the number of people leaving the workforce for health reasons. Employers can use simple, low-cost measures such as making flexible adjustments to someone’s working pattern or keeping in touch with people while they are on sick leave.
Businesses and health providers will be asked for their views on how to remove the barriers in the current system which stop employers from taking action, with small employers expected to need the most support. The majority of small employers reported a lack of time and capital to invest in support as the key issues.
The government will also consider whether to change legal guidance to encourage employers to intervene early during a period of sickness absence.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “Too many still face challenges returning to work after sick leave. We need to remove the barriers that stop people with disabilities or health conditions from reaching their full potential – these steps will help us achieve that.
“Businesses will also benefit from being able to retain talent, and build workplaces that support the physical and mental health needs of their employees.”
As well as extending who is entitled to statutory sick pay, the consultation will also look at how to improve the capacity, value and quality of occupational health services and consider how to reduce the high costs, particularly for smaller employers.