· News

Government could risk leaving key workers behind over sick pay rules

Thousands of key workers could be at a disadvantage, should they fall ill or need to self-isolate, due to a lack of cover in the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) regulations, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has warned.

Businesses with fewer than 250 staff can be reimbursed for SSP if their staff cannot work due to COVID-19. However, recruitment businesses supplying temporary workers are ineligible for the rebate because they are responsible for placing many more temporary staff in other businesses, according to the REC.

This includes sectors vital to the current economy such as logistics, education and care, where staff may not be able to work from home.

Small recruiters could face potentially huge SSP if temps are required to self-isolate. The REC has warned that this could lead to fewer work opportunities for temps, just at the moment businesses need them.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC told HR magazine: “The fight against the virus is being compromised by the failure to fund SSP for every worker if they need to self-isolate. That’s why extending it so that people on temporary contracts are not left behind is so important.

“Flexible work opportunities will help speed up the recovery - and covering SSP will help REC members provide more of them. For the client business, flexibility helps them navigate through by creating temporary work opportunities to fill fluctuating demand when permanent positions would not be possible. Temporary work also helps individuals find earning opportunities quickly and gain new skills.”

Further reading

Navigating sick pay during COVID-19

What are your employment rights in quarantine if you can’t work from home?

Furlough scheme extension: is it too late to save jobs in a second lockdown?

In response to the sick pay rules, the group has published a six-step plan calling on government to fund SSP support for every worker and ensure no one is left behind.

The six suggested measures are:

  • Reduce employer national insurance contributions to incentivise job creation.
  • Fund SSP for every worker so no one is disadvantaged or left behind by this crisis.
  • Open up the apprenticeship levy so people who need to retrain to find a job can be supported.
  • Remove unnecessary red tape when finding work with the use of technology.
  • Ensure key sectors to the economy can access the people they need, including through the new immigration system.
  • Make recruitment experts central to all job finding support services.