The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Centre for Progressive Change revealed that over seven million workers in the UK would benefit if statutory sick pay (SSP) were available from the first day of illness.

The current system mandates a three-day waiting period before employees can claim SSP, leaving many workers vulnerable.

The new analysis shows that if this law were changed, 7.4 million employees—26 percent of the workforce—would receive immediate support when they fall ill.

This figure is even higher for workers in elementary occupations such as labourers and cleaners, with 36 percent standing to benefit. In the care and leisure sectors, the proportion rises to nearly 39 percent.

Financial Cliff Edge

The TUC and the Centre for Progressive Change emphasised the urgent need for reform, highlighting the financial instability many workers face when they become sick. TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak stressed the importance of immediate SSP, especially amid the ongoing cost of living crisis. “Making people wait three days before they get any support is just plain wrong,” he said. “Nobody should be plunged into hardship when they become sick.”

Lowest Earners Hit Hardest

The analysis also pointed out that over one million workers currently do not qualify for SSP because their earnings fall below the £123 weekly threshold. Notably, 69 percent of these workers are women. If this lower earnings limit were abolished, approximately one million more workers would gain access to SSP.

Amanda Walters, Director of the Centre for Progressive Change, highlighted the inequity of the current system. “The three unpaid sick pay waiting days mean a full-time worker on SSP gets an effective sick pay rate of just £1 an hour,” she said. “This broken system must change.”

Call to Action

The TUC and the Centre for Progressive Change are urging all political parties to commit to two key reforms ahead of the general election:

  1. End the four-day wait for SSP, making it available from day one.
  2. Remove the lower earnings limit, ensuring low earners are also protected.

These measures are part of the Labour Party’s New Deal for Working People and have garnered support from various organisations, including Mind and Young Lives vs Cancer.

Broader Impact

Implementing these changes would not only provide financial security for millions of families but also enhance public health by reducing the likelihood of sick workers spreading infections. With 1 in 8 working-age people having less than £100 in savings, the TUC argues that every extra day of paid sick leave is crucial.

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People would fix this problem,” said Nowak. “With sick pay rights from the first day of sickness, you will know that your family is protected. And you can take the time you need to recover.”

As the general election approaches, the TUC and the Centre for Progressive Change continue to advocate for a fairer sick pay system that supports all workers and promotes a healthier society.

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.