Plaid Cymru MP calls on Johnson to raise ‘inadequate’ sick pay to halt Omicron spread
Plaid Cymru a Plaid Cymru MP has urged Boris Johnson to increase the UK’s “inadequate” statutory sick pay to halt the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
The party’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, told the UK Prime Minister that people should not have to “choose between following public health regulations, or putting food on the table”.
In a tense session of Prime Minister’s Questions following several scandals and warnings of Tory leadership challenges, the Ceredigion MP told Johnson many people were facing a precarious reality this winter.
He said that many people who are asked to self-isolate are ineligible for either the Welsh Government’s self-isolation payment or for the UK Government’s Statutory Sick Pay due to either not being in receipt of benefits or are earning above the earnings threshold.
He said UK’s sick pay is among the least generous in the developed world. At only £96.35 per week, it is equivalent to only 20 per cent of the average wage – compared to 100 per cent in Germany and 90 per cent in France.
Speaking in the House of Commons chamber, Ben Lake MP said: “With the emergence of the Omicron variant, and a rising number of Covid infections, more and more people are being asked to self-isolate or to stay at home to look after isolating children.
“I have been contacted by people in Ceredigion who have been excluded from isolation support payments as they are not in receipt of benefits or are above weekly earnings threshold.
“Will the Prime Minister act urgently to increase statutory sick pay – which currently stands at a mere £96.35 a week – so that people in this position do not have choose between following public health regulations, or putting food on the table?”
The Prime Minister did not address Statutory Sick Pay in his response.
Speaking after the session, Mr Lake added: “Almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic, many workers are still forced to choose between self-isolating or putting food on the table thanks to the UK’s inadequate statutory sick pay system.
“At only £96.35 per week, the UK has one of the lowest statutory sick pay rates in Europe. That is equivalent to only 20 per cent of the average wage – compared to 100 per cent in Germany and 90 per cent in France.
“Providing adequate sick pay is clearly in the interests of public health, but it is also in the interests of employers, two-thirds of whom would support a strengthened system. It is disappointing therefore that the Prime Minister is yet again avoiding making the right decision.”