Our letter to the UK Government

Dear Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,


We, the undersigned, are a coalition of unions, health and disability charities and civil society organisations representing millions of workers in the UK subject to the UK's Statutory Sick Pay regime. We are calling on the government to make the changes set out below to create a sick pay system that is better for workers, employers and Britain's public health. We are writing to you to highlight the problems with Statutory Sick Pay, and to invite you to a meeting to find an equitable solution to the UK's sick pay system.


The pandemic highlighted some of the shortcomings of our current sick pay legislation. Currently one third of workers are only paid £99.35 a week to take time off when ill. Those workers are not paid for the first 3 days they are off sick. Furthermore, almost two million workers receive no sick pay because they earn below the earnings threshold of £123 per week with their employer.


As a result, the current system incentivises workers to go into work sick as they cannot afford to take the time off. This leads to public health risks as we saw during the pandemic. It also leads to financial hardship, especially with the cost of living crisis. For instance, Mind found that two in three people with a mental health problem, who received Statutory Sick Pay, faced financial difficulties. Finally, this leads to people not being able to look after their health and wellbeing, and focus on getting better.


There are four changes to Statutory Sick Pay legislation that would make a great impact to public health, personal wellbeing and whether some people can make ends meet during the cost of living crisis:


  1. Abolishing the earnings threshold for Statutory Sick Pay
  2. Making Statutory Sick Pay payable from the first day of sickness
  3. Increasing sick pay to be in line with a worker’s wages up to the real living wage
  4. Developing a flexible model for Statutory Sick Pay which allows for a phased return to work and income protection for workers


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. We look forward to your response.


Your sincerely,


Sophie Corlett, interim Chief Executive, Mind


Paul Nowak, General Secretary elect, Trades Union Congress


Mark Hodgkinson, Chief Executive, Scope


Sharon Graham, General Secretary, Unite the Union


Christina McAnea, General Secretary, UNISON


Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group


Amanda Walters, Chief Executive, Centre for Progressive Change 


Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Education Union


Gemma Hope, Director of Policy, Leonard Cheshire Disability


Kamran Mallick, CEO, Disability Rights UK


Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union


Diane Lightfoot, CEO, Business Disability Forum


Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers


Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health


Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union


Helen Undy, Chief Executive, Money and Mental Health Policy Institute


Paul Fleming, General Secretary, Equity


Matt Wrack, General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union


Catherine Howarth, Chief Executive, ShareAction


Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, Napo


Philippa King, Managing Director, Shiva Foundation 


Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists


David Ramsden, Chief Executive, Cystic Fibrosis Trust


Nat Whalley, CEO and Co-Founder, Organise


Rachel Kirby-Rider, Chief Executive Officer, Young Lives vs Cancer


Bob Monks, General Secretary, The United Road Transport Union


Marzena Zukowska, Co-Director and Co-Founder, Polish Migrants Organise for Change


Captain Martin Chalk, General Secretary, British Airlines Pilots’ Association


Gisela Valle, Director, Latin American Women's Rights Service  


Diarmaid McDonald, Executive Director, Just Treatment


Alison Smith, CEO, Roots HR CIC


Tom Madders, Director of Communications and Campaigns, Young Minds


Adela Belecova, Executive Team, English for Action


Jacobo Belilty, Coordinator, CLAUK


Professor Phil Taylor, Professor of Work and Employment Studies, University of Strathclyde, Fellow of the Academy of Social Science


Janet Newsham, Coordinator, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre