[UK] Ethnic minority and older workers have less sick pay access

[UK] Ethnic minority and older workers have less sick pay access
07 Feb 2022

Ethnic minority workers, older workers and people on low incomes are among those most likely to lack access to sick pay, a think tank has revealed. It warned that these groups will find it increasingly difficult to self isolate, People Management reports.

The report, from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and University College London (UCL), found that households earning less than £25,000 were twice as likely to lack access to any sick pay compared to those earning more than £75,000.

Workers over the age of 65 were reportedly five times more likely to lack access to sick pay compared to those aged 25 to 44. While workers aged between 45 and 64 were also twice as likely as this younger age group to lack access to sick pay.

Additionally, the report found that people from a South Asian background were 40 per cent more likely to lack access to sick pay than white workers. This disparity could not be explained by differences in income, occupation or employment status. The report concluded that this suggested institutionalised racism played a part.

The think tank warned that as the UK economy moves to a new phase of the COVID pandemic, and the cost of living continues to rise, it will become increasingly difficult for individuals who lack access to sick pay to self-isolate.

“As the cost of living crisis takes hold, it will only become harder for people to isolate, which makes it even more important that the government acts now to raise sick pay and make it available to all workers,” Dr Parth Patel - research fellow at IPPR and UCL - said.

Dr Patel added that sick pay rates in the UK were “among the lowest in the developed world”, and that the class, race and age disparities in people’s access to sick pay risked “entrenching the inequalities exposed by the pandemic and constraining the UK’s ability to live with COVID.”

The report called on the government to expand access to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) by abolishing the lower earnings limit and by increasing SSP to cover 80 per cent of earnings.

The current rate of SSP is £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks and it is only available to individuals earning at least £120 a week. It is not currently available to the self-employed.

With this report, the IPPR becomes the latest in a string of organisations to call for SSP to be reformed. Towards the end of 2021, a separate piece of research from the CIPD found that the majority of HR professionals polled (62 per cent) agreed that the current rate of SSP is too low and should be increased.

As a result, the CIPD called on the government to raise the level of SSP to at least a rate equivalent to someone earning the national minimum wage or the national living wage and for the lower earnings limit to be raised.

The CIPD also called for a consultation on wider reform to sick pay; such as a phased return to work, making the benefit available from the first day off sick (eligible individuals only receive SSP on their third day off work at present) and income protection for the self-employed.

Source: People Management


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