The Trades Union Congress has accused the Government of abandoning low-paid workers after it reneged on plans to reform statutory sick pay.

According to a new TUC analysis, the TUC stated that the Government has failed to support millions of workers by refusing to change rules around statutory sick pay.

At present, employees who earn less than the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) – less than £120 a week – are currently unable to qualify for sick pay.

In a response released yesterday, the Government acknowledged results of a survey which found that three-quarters (75 per cent) of large and small businesses felt that staff who earn less than the LEL should be eligible for SSP.

Extending the SSP, the respondents argued, would put employers in a stronger position to better incentivise reducing sickness absence for all of their employees.

However, the Government stated that “now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system” although noted that SSP provides an important link between the employee and employer.

The TUC has claimed that this decision not to make key reforms to Statutory Sick Pay has let down the two million workers who do not earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay – of which 70 per cent are women.

Recent research by the Fabian Society, commissioned by the TUC, shows that removing the lower earnings limit, which prevents those on low earnings from accessing statutory sick pay, would cost employers a maximum of £150m a year.

The research also finds that on average the cost of raising statutory sick pay to a real Living Wage for employers without an occupational sick pay scheme would be around £110 per employee per year – or just over £2 a week.

Commenting on the failure to remove the lower earnings limit from statutory sick pay, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time.

With Covid cases going through the roof, its refusal to make sick pay available for all is grossly irresponsible and will help drive infections still higher.

This is yet another example of short-sighted penny pinching from the Treasury, which is undermining Britain’s public health effort.

The millions of low-paid workers who are not eligible for statutory sick pay – mostly women – could only dream of a VIP pilot scheme to allow them to opt out of self-isolation at the drop of a hat. Instead, they are forced to choose between doing the right thing or being plunged into financial hardship.

Frances O’Grady further added that it is “high time the government did the right thing by making sick pay available to all and raising it to a real Living Wage.”





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.