Almost two years after the Covid-19 pandemic began, the UK still has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe. Employees and agency workers are entitled to £96.35 a week in statutory sick pay (SSP) – equivalent to around 20 per cent of the average wage – for up to 28 weeks.
Unlike in other major European countries, only people earning at least £120 a week qualify for the legal minimum benefit, which research by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has shown excludes some two million low-paid workers – mostly women.
Campaigners have long called for reform of the UK’s sick pay system. A survey this week by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that 62 per cent of employers support a rise in UK statutory sick pay. The CIPD has called on the government to increase payments to the level of the National Minimum Wage and to remove the lower earnings limit.
In contrast to the UK, in countries such as Germany and Norway, employees are entitled to sickness benefits equivalent to their average earnings (subject to certain caps). Analysis by the OECD in 2020 found that the UK employees with Covid received the lowest rate of mandatory sick pay among member states.
Ireland, which currently has no legal minimum entitlement, recently approved plans to introduce mandatory sick pay from 2022 onwards. At present only those isolating for Covid-19 receive an illness benefit.