In a survey of 1,172 workers published by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), 6 per cent of British workers went to work with Covid-19 symptoms. What was even more alarming is that 1 in 25 workers had attended work within 10 days of receiving a positive Covid-19 test.
Research also found that 12 per cent of respondents felt pressure from their employer to return to work when they could work safely from home. Government guidance states anyone testing positive with COVID-19 should quarantine in self-isolation for at least 10 days, or if asymptomatic, 10 days from receiving positive test results.
Alan Lockey, head of the RSA’s future work programme, warns “our polling shows that millions feel forced to put themselves and others at risk of the virus because of insecure work, pressure from bosses and the failings of our deeply inadequate welfare state.”
Just 16 per cent of workers felt that statutory sick pay is sufficient to meet their families. Sick pay should cover at least 80% of workers’ wages, says RSA. Lockey said, “Rishi Sunak must close this economic security trap – the terrible trade-off many workers face between their health and putting food on the table – by allowing self-isolating workers to access the furlough scheme, and retaining the £20 per week uplift in universal credit.”
According to the CIPD, only 30 per cent of the promised £500 government financial support claims have been paid out to workers who have been told to isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service. Low-paid workers are faced with a ‘post-code lottery’ when it comes to whether or not their financial support claims will be approved, with some local authorities paying £500 of Test and Trace support payments more frequently than other areas of the UK.
Self-isolation is widely described as the most effective method for stopping the spread of the virus, according to the Resolution Foundation, but when families are forced to make a significant financial sacrifice, it becomes almost impossible. The charity has urged the government to extend its furlough scheme to include self-isolation payments and to include self-employed workers in grants of up to £830. Maja Gustafsson, a charity researcher, explained that it would take months for the vaccination program to become widely effective, and many more workers will need to stay home from work this year.
“Given the failure of the current sick pay regime, the government must turn now to the far more successful job support schemes to provide workers and firms with the financial support they need to do the right thing,” said Gustafsson.