Increase of £1.60 a week in statutory sick pay labelled a ‘joke’ by GMB amid coronavirus crisis
There have been calls to increase sick pay levels in the UK (PA)
Union bosses have reacted with anger after the rate of Statutory Sick Pay went up by £1.60 a week.
The GMB said the rise was "a sick joke" as more people are forced to rely on the cash as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
It comes after calls to bring the levels of sick pay available in the UK in line with more generous settlements in other European countries.
A written parliamentary answer revealed that SSP will go up from £94.25 to £95.85 per week from 6 April.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted last month that the current level was not enough for him to live on, and in 2018 it was labelled “manifestly inadequate” by the European Committee of Social Rights.
On the continent the average worker receives 65% of their salary from the state during a week of sick leave, and can access it sooner.
And German citizens are paid their full salary for six weeks, then 70% until they are fit to return to work, while in Norway workers can get full pay for a year.
The £1.60 increase, an already-planned inflationary rise, comes as thousands more people are expected to claim against it due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Tom Warnett from the GMB union said: “We have supported the Government’s measures to protect jobs and wages, which will help millions of workers.
“But millions more will be relying on inadequate levels of Statutory Sick Pay, leaving them with the choice of putting bills on credit cards or continuing to work while potentially carrying the virus.
“If people can’t afford to live on SSP – and the Minister has admitted he couldn’t - how can they afford to stay home?”
He added: “A rise of £1.60 is an unfunny joke, the Government has to address this as a matter of urgency.
“It is not just in the interests of public health now, it’s the right thing to do for the future.”
Sam Tarry, the Labour MP for Ilford South whose question revealed the rise, said: “The Government is missing the opportunity to put sick pay up to a level that doesn’t force people into poverty or unsafely back into work when they are sick.
“The Health Secretary said he couldn’t live off £94. An extra £1.60 a week is not going to make a difference. It’s time for the Government to get this sorted.”
And the Lib Dem acting leader Ed Davey told PoliticsHome: “A huge number of employees will only have statutory sick pay to depend on at some point in the coming months.
"Failing to deliver a substantial boost beyond an inflationary rise of £1.60 will strike thousands of workers as tone-deaf."
His party are calling on the Government to increase statutory sick pay to at least two thirds of average earnings at £220 per week.
Mr Davey added: “Failing to invest in sick pay not only keeps families under incredible strain but jeopardises our collective effort to protect public health.
"The Government must act before lives are risked.”