Trade union body the TUC has urged the government to provide support for workers who do not qualify for statutory sick pay in the wake of the coronavirus.
People on low incomes, zero-hours contracts and the self-employed are among those who may not qualify.
They might be tempted to attend work if no benefits were offered, said the TUC.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said Universal Credit might be available for those kept from work.
“We all want people to follow the government’s health advice,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “No-one should be out of pocket for doing the right thing.”
Statutory sick pay (SSP) is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. It is only paid from the fourth day of sickness.
To qualify, a worker must earn at least £118 per week.
There is no statutory sick pay for the self-employed. However, if you are a casual or agency worker you should qualify.
For zero-hours workers, staff can ask but might not get it, according to says Citizens Advice.
“Employers have been urged to make sure they use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay,” a DWP spokesperson said.
“Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay is able to claim Universal Credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.”
The TUC is asking for SSP to be offered to staff from the first day of sickness, and regardless of how much they earn.
It also wants the payments to be raised to the National Living Wage, which is £8.21 per hour for over-25s. That would be £287.35 for a 35-hour week.
The TUC also wants those asked to self-isolate by their employer to be paid in full and for an emergency fund to be set up to help struggling firms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has indicated that sick leave rules could be changed to allow people to sign themselves off work for two weeks in response to coronavirus fears.
Mr Hancock told MPs the issue was “under review” given the current situation meant a person must give their employer a doctor’s note if they were ill for more than seven days.
The CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, says employers ought to go above and beyond the letter of the law.
“Employers must place the health and wellbeing of staff at the heart of their contingency planning and response,” said Ben Willmott, head of public policy, at the CIPD.
“We recommend that businesses are as generous with their sick pay and leave policies as possible, both to support staff health and wellbeing, and to minimise any impact on their pay.
Acas, the independent arbitration service, has said it is “good practice” for employers to treat self-isolation as sick leave or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.
“Otherwise there’s a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid,” it has said.
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