05 March 2020
In some cases, investment may need to be shared by businesses and government
The CBI is today (Thursday) calling for urgent action on five areas of sick pay to support employees and businesses in light of Coronavirus. These reflect firms’ determination to ensure that people are able to follow public health guidance without fear of not being paid.
Business supports the Government’s decision that, in these extraordinary circumstances, Statutory Sick Pay will begin from day one. But there are five additional temporary measures that would support workers even more:
- Extending Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to all workers (e.g. agency staff and others on flexible or zero-hours contracts) who self-isolate themselves in accordance with public health guidance
- Clarifying in law that being unable to work because you’re self-isolating to comply with public health guidance - even if you are otherwise healthy - entitles a worker to statutory sick pay
- Clarifying that workers who are following public health advice on Coronavirus are entitled to SSP even if they don’t have a GP’s ‘fit note’
- Removing the need to earn over £118 a week to qualify for SSP, which is unfair to part-time employees. The Government proposed this in a 2019 consultation - which the CBI supported - and these plans should now accelerate
- Introducing emergency relief for business – especially small businesses – if the total cost of sick pay becomes unsustainable. Small businesses may be particularly susceptible to cash-flow problems meaning that prompt reimbursement will be key to their ability to continue supporting staff.
The priorities for business in the coming weeks will be to ensure that staff are supported if they need to self-isolate, to work with the Government at a time of national need and to ensure the investment in supporting the UK economy is fairly shared between business and the Government.
Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“Businesses know they have an important part to play in making it easy for people to comply with public health guidance. It’s vital there are no incentives to ignore the advice because of a fear of not being paid. Fairness and upholding their duty of care for the health and safety of their staff is at the heart of firms’ plans for responding to coronavirus. That’s why the CBI is calling for the extension of Statutory Sick Pay.
“There are many jobs where self-isolating means not working. Paying sick pay in this situation is clearly the right thing to do, and some businesses have already said that they will. But the law is unclear, leaving some workers unsure if following public health guidance risks not being paid.
On support for businesses:
“While businesses can help shield workers from the financial cost of coronavirus, there may be situations in the future where some come under extreme pressure and will need support from the Government, especially smaller firms.
“If a situation develops where a large proportion of people are unable to work at the same time, repeatedly, or for a sustained period, that is a heavy burden to take on. If costs become too great, the Government can look at options for emergency relief measures for businesses and to support jobs.
“We are all in this together. Businesses, Government and public health authorities will need to work closely over the coming weeks to best protect and inform people.”