A new report says older and poorer workers are the most likely not to be eligible for sick pay and warns sick pay rates are too low to ensure people continue to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid.
Older and poorer workers are the most likely to miss out on statutory sick pay, according to a think tank analysis, which warns that low rates of pay and limited eligibility could make it increasingly difficult for people to self-isolate and keep the spread of infection down.
The IPPR report says that, while UK statutory sick pay is set at amongst the lowest rates in Europe, too many workers are going without any protection at all.
Poorer households are more likely to lack access to sick pay – households earning less than £25,000 are around twice as likely to lack access to any sick pay compared to households earning above £75,000.
Older workers are more likely to lack access to sick pay – workers aged over 65 are five times, and workers 45-64 around two times, more likely to lack access to sick pay compared to younger workers (25-44 year olds).
There is a class disparity in access to sick pay – people working in jobs traditionally considered working class are more likely to lack access to sick pay. People working in outdoor trades, such as farming and construction, are five times more likely to lack access to sick pay than managers and senior officials. People working in manufacturing, manual trades, beauty, transportation and catering are also around twice as likely to lack access to sick pay.
There is a racial disparity in access to sick pay – South Asian workers are around 40 per cent more likely to lack access to sick pay than white British workers. This disparity cannot be explained by income, occupation or employment status, suggesting institutional racism plays a part, says the report.
It calls for the government to expand access to sick pay by abolishing the lower earnings limit and increase the statutory replacement rate to 80 per cent of previous earnings in keeping with several European countries.
It further calls for the government to recognise the link between work and health and work towards tackling low paid, insecure jobs and creating a post-pandemic world of work with more good quality jobs, with healthier conditions, hours and environments.
Dr Parth Patel, IPPR and UCL research fellow, said: “We all want to put the pandemic behind us, but the reality is that we need to understand how to successfully ‘live with Covid’. If we don’t, there is a real risk Covid-19 becomes an endemic disease of disparity, primarily circulating among poor and minority ethnic communities.
“Sick pay rates in the UK are among the lowest in the developed world, but until now it has been very poorly understood which workers actually lack access to any sick pay whatsoever. The class, race and age disparities in sick pay access revealed by this new analysis risk entrenching the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and constraining the UK’s ability to ‘live with Covid’.
“As the cost of living crisis takes hold, it will only become harder for people to isolate, which makes it even more important that the government acts now to raise sick pay and make it available to all workers.”