‘Government should use furlough scheme for those who need to self isolate’

The Resolution Foundation think tank is calling for a rethink about how the Government supports those who need to self isolate.

COVID-19 virus


The Government should use the furlough scheme to encourage more workers to self-isolate at home as the current sick pay regime is failing, according to a new report.

The report – Time Out – says the current system around supporting people self isolating needs to be replaced with a more effective regime.

It notes that the main support available for employees asked to self-isolate at home is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). It says that, at £96 a week, SSP offers the lowest level of Government support provided across any advanced economy during the pandemic, replacing less than a quarter of a typical employee’s previous earnings, compared to an OECD average replacement rate of 60 per cent.

It adds that two million employees, including a quarter of part-time workers, who earn less than £120 a week are not eligible for SSP which means they have no income at all if they self-isolate at home.

The report notes that the Government “has implicitly acknowledged the limitations of SSP” by introducing £500 Test and Trace Support Payments (TTSP) for individuals entitled to benefits. However, it says only one in eight of those entitled to these payments are getting them.

The report calls for a more effective, generous and easy to deliver support regime to be put in place – using the furlough scheme [at 80% of pay], Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) [grants of up to £830] and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for self employed people not entitled to SEISS – uprated to £96 a week – in line with the uprating of Universal Credit.

Maja Gustafsson, Researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Getting people to self-isolate at home is one of the important tools we have in combatting Covid-19. But asking workers to do that often involves a major financial sacrifice – and the UK’s sick pay regime has been woefully inadequate in providing the necessary support. Many more Covid infections will have taken place as a result.

“Coronavirus vaccines will take many months to roll out, so more workers will need to self-isolate at home to contain the spread of the virus next 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.”

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