Liz Saville Roberts MP urges PM to fix self-isolation problem “once and for all”

Ahead of the UK Government’s anticipated announcement of a ‘roadmap’ out of England’s lockdown today (22 February 2021), Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP, has urged the Prime Minister to improve sick pay for workers across the UK “once and for all”.

The UK currently has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe. In 2018, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Social Rights found the UK’s offering to be in breach of article 12 of the European Social Charter – the right to social security – and article 13, the right to social and medical assistance. The damning report described the UK’s level of support as “manifestly inadequate".

Ms Saville Roberts had previously raised the issue of the UK’s insufficient level of sick pay in PMQs on 24 June 2020 – pointing out workers on average receive 20% of their salary while on Statutory Sick Pay. She compared the situation with Germany, where employees receive sick pay worth 100% of their salary for up to six weeks. This is paid by the employer, who is then reimbursed by the state.

Subsequently, compliance with self-isolation has not been a problem in Germany, while the Senedd’s Health Committee heard in December 2020 that less than a third of people in Wales were fully self-isolating.

While the Welsh Government has implemented £500 self-isolation payments for eligible people on low income – it revealed last week that the majority of the applications had been rejected. Eligibility for the scheme was expanded on 17 February, but Plaid Cymru urged the Welsh Government to increase the level of support to £800 to improve rates of self-isolation.

Ms Saville Roberts said that due to powers over welfare, including Statutory Sick Pay, remaining at Westminster, it the UK Government’s duty to address this “fundamental problem at the heart of our welfare system”.

She said that increasing the level and expanding the eligibility of Statutory Sick Pay “once and for all” would ensure that “everyone is compensated for loss of earnings” and “no one falls through the cracks”.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have known that self-isolation is one of the most important, if not the most important tool in curbing the spread of coronavirus. Yet, a year in, many workers are still unable to afford to self-isolate due to the UK’s deeply inadequate sick pay system.

“Fear of financial hardship is one of the barriers to effective self-isolation. It is vital that in this most crucial phase of the pandemic, that the UK Government addresses this fundamental problem at the heart of our welfare system. I urge the Prime Minister to raise the level and expand the eligibility of Statutory Sick Pay once and for all.

“If we are to allow everyone to self-isolate safely, we must ensure that everyone is compensated for loss of earnings and that no-one falls through the cracks.”