The government is full of talk about “supporting each other” but is doing little to compensate workers who are forced to take time off work due to the coronavirus. The message seems to be “do the right thing” and self-isolate but do not expect any financial support from us. Below we set out your rights to sick pay and wages when having to take time off work due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The information below is based on things as they currently stand on the 15th March 2020.
LAY-OFFS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS
As in other countries, the government may at some point begin to close workplaces, such as bars and restaurants, as the virus spreads. In which case they may announce special arrangements but as things stand at the moment if you are temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus the following applies:
● A lay-off is if you’re off work for at least 1 working day
● You should get your full pay unless your contract allows unpaid or reduced pay during lay-offs. You should check the documents you were given when you first started work, company policies and staff handbook to see if there is any mention of lay-offs. If there is any uncertainty demand to be paid full pay.
● If your contract states that you are not entitled to pay when laid off you can claim guarantee pay. The maximum you can get is £29 a day for 5 days in any 3-month
period - so a maximum of £145.
● If you're not an employee, for example, if you're a temp, you don't have a right to paid work and so will not be paid if you are laid-off.
IF YOU NEED TIME OFF TO CARE FOR SOMEONE ELSE
If you have a relative who is ill or your children's school is closed, for example, your employer should give you time off, but your employer is not forced to pay you unless your contract requires it.
CONTRACTUAL SICK PAY
If you normally get paid for being off sick, you should get paid for being off during the coronavirus epidemic. If you are unsure, check out your companies policies in regards to sick pay. You should also check out all the information you were given when you first started work, it should tell you if you are entitled to be paid for sick leave by your employer.
STATUTORY SICK PAY
If you work (and aren’t self-employed), you’re legally entitled to get the governments Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of £94.25 per week paid to you through your employer. You can claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) just as long as you have:
● started work with your employer
● earn on average at least £118 per week (before tax)
● follow your employer’s rules for getting sick pay. If there is no laid down procedure you should phone your employer as soon as possible to say you will not be coming to work and never later than 7 days. Always keep a record of your conversation and with who you spoke (There are some restrictions on getting SSP see below)
The Government has changed the rules so that you can claim SSP from the first day you take off work as a result of the coronavirus. For all other illnesses, you will only get SSP if you're sick for 4 full days or more in a row (including non-working days) The government have made it clear that employers need to be flexible. For example, after 7 days of self-certification, you would normally require a sick note (fit note) from your doctor.
But given people may be self-isolating for 15 days this may no longer be possible. You should notify your employer if you cannot get to the doctors for a sick note and keep a record of your conversation and also send an email.
IF YOU ARE ON A CASUAL, AGENCY, ZERO-HOURS, PART-TIME OR SHORT-TERM
You’re still entitled to statutory sick pay if you work part-time or on a fixed-term contract.
If you’re an agency or casual worker and you’re working on an assignment when you get ill, you might be entitled to SSP until that assignment ends. If you’d already agreed to another assignment, you might be entitled to SSP till the end of that future assignment. If you’re not working when you get ill, you won’t be entitled to SSP.
If you’re on a zero-hours contract, you can still get SSP just as long as you earn more than £118 a week on average.
If you have doubts about whether you are entitled to statutory sick pay, the best thing to do is simply claim the sick pay of your employer and see what response you get back.
FOR THOSE WITH MORE THAN 1 JOB
If you have more than 1 employer you could be entitled to sick pay from each one. Treat each employer as if they were your only employer and claim SSP off each.
WHO IS NOT ENTITLED TO STATUTORY SICK PAY?
You won’t get SSP if you:
● if you are genuinely self-employed
● have already had SSP for 28 weeks (and the 28 weeks ended within the last 8 weeks)
● had Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the last 12 weeks
● are getting statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance
● are pregnant, your baby is due in 4 weeks or less and your illness is pregnancy-related
● had a baby in the last 14 weeks (or the last 18 weeks if your baby was born over 4 weeks early)
● are in the armed forces
● are in legal custody (detained either by the police or in prison)
● are an agricultural worker
IF YOUR BOSS REFUSES TO PAY YOU STATUARTY SICK PAY
If you think you’re entitled to statutory sick pay but your employer says you're not and refuses to pay it, you should contact HM Revenue and Customs Telephone: 0300 200 3500
Textphone: 0300 200 3212. Open Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.
Alternately you can phone HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Telephone: 03000 560630
You can also get in touch with us here at the Solidarity Federation.
WHAT IF I AM NOT ENTITLED TO SICK PAY
Shockingly the Office for National Statistics estimates that there are 1,766,000 jobs done by adults in the UK that paid less than £118 a week. Some 70% of these jobs are done by women.
There are also some 5 million people classed as self employed, many of which work in the “gig economy” and are bogusly classed as self-employed. For these people, the only option during illness is to claim benefits with all the delays
and difficulties this entails.
Your rights under the UK employment laws are pretty pathetic. The way to improve pay and working conditions is not through relying on weak employment rights, but by workers coming together and getting organised. For example instead of having to rely on pathetic £94.25 SSP why not get together and demand full pay while off sick with the Coronavirus?
IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN STARTING TO ORGANISE IN YOUR WORKPLACE GET IN TOUCH WITH US HERE AT SOLIDARITY FEDERATION FOR SUPPORT AND ADVICE