The letter to hloe Smith MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
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A major coalition of trade unions, health charities and migrant rights campaigners, alongside the Safe Sick Pay Campaign, have called for urgent reform to the UK’s Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) system to protect public health amid the cost of living crisis.

In a letter sent today, 11 October, coordinated by the Safe Sick Pay campaign, mental health charity Mind and the Trade Union Congress (TUC), 30 organisations called on the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Chloe Smith MP, to introduce reforms that would protect workers.

Signatories include 12 trade union General Secretaries such as Paul Nowak of the TUC and Sharon Graham of Unite, as well as Chief Executives of major charities such as Mind and Disabilities Rights UK. 

The signatories highlighted the fact that one third of workers are only paid £99.35 a week if they are forced to take time off when ill. Those workers are not paid for the first 3 days they are off sick, while almost two million workers receive no sick pay at all.

During the cost of living crisis, this will mean severe hardship for millions of workers. Current SSP leads people to try to work while unwell, causing illness to spread and undermining their recovery, the letter says.

The signatories called for the Government to:

  1. Abolish the earnings threshold for SSP (workers must earn over £120 per week from a single employer to get any sick pay).
  2. Make SSP payable from the first day of sickness.
  3. Increase sick pay so it is in line with the real living wage.
  4. Develop a flexible model for SSP which allows for a phased return to work and income protection for workers.

The letter reads:

“Currently, the UK’s sick pay is among the lowest of any wealthy country. We would like to invite you to a meeting so that we can work with the Department of Work and Pensions to build a sick pay system our country can be proud of.”


Amanda Walters, Campaign Director of the Safe Sick Pay Campaign, said:

“None of us wants to get sick, but if we do, we all want to know a safe sick pay system exists so we can make ends meet. The current sick pay system means that for millions of workers, getting ill means worrying about not being able to pay the bills.

“The cost of living crisis will mean that even more of us will feel we have no choice but to try to work through illness, rather than taking the time needed to get better.

“The Government must urgently create a safe sick pay system that supports workers, employers and public health.”


TUC deputy general secretary Paul Nowak said:

“No one should have to worry about how they’re going to pay the bills or put food on the table while they’re ill.

“But that is the situation millions of workers find themselves in because of low or no sick pay.

“Statutory sick pay in Britain is by far the lowest in Europe at a miserly £99.35 a week.

“And there is a huge sick pay class divide. Those on low pay and in insecure work are significantly less likely to receive decent sick pay – with more than a million receiving nothing at all because they don’t earn enough.

“The pandemic should have marked a turning point, but again and again ministers chose to turn a blind eye to our broken sick pay system. 

“Enough is enough. It’s time for decent sick pay for all – paid at at least the real Living Wage.”


Vicki Nash, Associate Director of Policy, Campaigns and Public Affairs at Mind, said:

“Many people with mental health problems return to work when they’re still unwell because our outdated and unfair Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) system doesn’t support us. At less than £100 a week, people are left to cope with money worries on top of health problems, often returning to work not because they are better but because they can’t afford to pay for bills or food – a problem only set to worsen as prices continue to rise. The situation is even worse for those on the lowest incomes, who often don’t qualify for SSP in the first place.

“If the UK government is serious about closing the disability-employment gap, our SSP system needs to work flexibly and reliably for us all. This means no longer disincentivising people taking time off sick when they need it by making us wait until the third consecutive day of sickness to start receiving it. The Government temporarily lifted this harmful three day wait at the height of the pandemic. Now it must be scrapped permanently.

“We hope Chloe Smith MP agrees to meet with us. Our new UK government must re-commit to publishing its long-awaited 10 year cross Government plan and within this detail how they will work with employers to helping support more disabled people to get into and stay in employment. Key to this is creating a sick pay system that supports staff as soon as they need time off sick and for as long as they need it. Too many people are coming back when unwell, relapsing and needing more time off, or even falling out of work altogether.”


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