Current sick pay is forcing people into work even when they’re not well - John Kushnick

Labour has unveiled its first big general election offering on workers’ rights with a pledge to end discrimination on sick pay facing low-paid employees. This intervention on sick pay will help an estimated 1.5 million who are not covered by the rules and either have to work through illness or stay at home without financial support.

Angela Rayner stated that currently “Britain is stuck in a sickness doom loop. Low paid and insecure workers – most of them women – are forced to work through illness or go without financial support when sick.” This is supported by National Accident Helpline’s own research, which found that over a third of Brits in Yorkshire and the Humber (36 per cent) have worked through pain as they couldn’t afford to take time off.

The cost-of-living crisis is having a lasting impact on all aspects of life, including our health. Many can’t afford to take sick leave or face stigma around doing so, which is manifesting into chronic health problems for the nation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Our research also found that 28 per cent of Brits now use working from home days instead of taking sick leave – even more surprising given the national conversation, more than half of Brits we surveyed said they have never ‘thrown a sickie’, otherwise known as calling in sick, when they were healthy enough to work.

Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner on the General Election campaign trail. PIC: Joe Giddens/PA WireLabour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner on the General Election campaign trail. PIC: Joe Giddens/PA Wire
Labour Party deputy leader Angela Rayner on the General Election campaign trail. PIC: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The research suggests while economic inactivity in the UK has hit crisis point, with record long sickness impacting 2.8 million Brits, not enough attention is being paid to the many Brits who are working with pain, which can often lead to worsening long-term conditions.

The reality is accidents and illnesses do happen, yet the UK’s current statutory sick pay is forcing people into working, which can often lead to worse long-term outcomes – so people are having to choose when it comes to their health.

Rather than deterring people, raising the level of statutory sick pay can help more people get back on their feet and back into work more quickly, while employees who have suffered a work-related injury may be entitled to compensation to help them get back to where they were before their injury.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The UK is experiencing relatively high rates of sickness absence and ill health, and it’s clear that the bigger picture includes the thousands of people who are still in work because they cannot afford to not be. Gig economy workers, for example, are particularly vulnerable.

Most people are unaware that while sickness pay lags behind normal wages, making a claim means that they can potentially recover their full loss of earnings, ensuring nobody is out of pocket. Still, ahead of the general election in the UK, all eyes will be on which party puts workers’ rights at its core, to tackle record sickness rates both inside and outside the workforce.

Rayner says that “Labour will be laser-focused on tackling the problem of sickness at work, strengthening statutory sick pay and scrapping the lower earnings limit.”

Clearly, there is an understanding that while some people cannot afford to take time off when ill, they’re worsening their own health, while also taking any infections into the workplace and risking spreading symptoms to their colleagues.

It’s refreshing to see that workplace sickness is now being taken more seriously.

John Kushnick is legal operations director at National Accident Helpline.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.