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What happens to those on low pay if they are quarantined over coronavirus? Robert Peston asks

(48 Posts)
GagaJo Mon 02-Mar-20 14:10:41

People with coronavirus symptoms are being asked to self-isolate.

A huge under-discussed problem relating to the Covid19 potential crisis is how to give confidence to those on low pay, especially the significant numbers on zero hours contracts in retail and hospitality, that if they self-quarantine they won’t suffer extreme hardship.

I understand the DWP is looking at this.

But the problem is huge and urgent - because to prevent viral spread it really matters that workers don’t fear they’ll run out of money if they don’t work.

Given that older people are especially at risk from the virus, think about the tragic implications if those working in social care don’t self isolate themselves when they are contagious.

It seems to me there are three big and urgent problems:

Encouraging or even obliging companies to remove the requirement for a doctor’s sick note to access statutory sick pay (something shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth mentioned today).

Making sure universal credit is agile enough to top up the pay of those on zero hours or short term contracts when they cannot work, in an expedited way.

Finding a way to compensate the many students and young people who aren’t on universal credit and lose all income when they don’t work in coffee shops, restaurants and so on.

If the government really wants to contain or delay the spread of coronavirus, then it will have to find proper money to compensate those who do the right thing by not working.

And also compensate businesses that can’t trade because they lack a sufficient number of virus-free staff. It won’t be cheap.

Last updated Mon 2 Mar 2020

Ilovecheese Mon 02-Mar-20 14:27:54

It will also have to put a stop to unemployed people being sanctioned and having their money stopped if they are unable to spend the required number of hours looking for work due to self isolation

Ilovecheese Mon 02-Mar-20 14:33:38

I suppose it is a balance between , in effect, paying people to stay off work, or risking people spreading the virus which may then do even more damage to the economy. Looking at the problem as an economic problem, quite apart from the social cost.

GrannySomerset Mon 02-Mar-20 14:36:42

I don’t think we have even begun to think through the problems this virus could cause. Closing schools will mean that working parents will have to stop at home to care for their young children; large numbers of people being short of money will encourage recession and, worse, debt. Where will the care workers come from if they are having to stay away from work either self-isolating or because of children? Or the staff to pack and deliver the grocery orders for people stuck at home? The potential problems are huge, and there is no sign yet that anyone in government has thought about the effect on “ordinary”people.

gillybob Mon 02-Mar-20 14:43:41

Small Businesses are no longer able to claim back statutory sick pay and have to find the money themselves . Having one of two people off work can soon become quite a drain. It’s easy for the various authorities to pass rules and regulations but they never seem to consider where the money will come from .

gillybob Mon 02-Mar-20 14:45:02

Closing schools will mean that working parents will have to stop at home to care for their young children; large numbers of people being short of money will encourage recession and, worse, debt

Exactly GrannySomerset .

eazybee Mon 02-Mar-20 15:52:13

Apparently arrangements are being made so that teachers can take much larger classes to cover for absent colleagues, which is precisely what has been happening for ever.
We all know the prime function of schools is to provide
childcare so that parents may go to work.

Talk about engendering hysteria.

AGAA4 Mon 02-Mar-20 15:53:35

It is hard to see how any of these measures to make sure people have enough money if they self isolate can be put in place in time. It will be putting people under great stress if they have to decide whether to self isolate or get paid and feed their families and spread the virus.

GagaJo Mon 02-Mar-20 16:01:39

I have to say, if I were a teacher being given a class of 50 or more students (which I have had occasionally) on a regular basis, I would go into self isolation in response. In the average British state school, that is a recipe for chaos AND contracting the virus from whichever coughing/spluttering/sneezing child is carrying it but being forced into school anyway.

GillT57 Mon 02-Mar-20 16:01:43

Oh yes, Gillybob as a one time employer I remember those days, someone on extended sick leave after surgery, full SSP, plus paying the replacement temp. That was one of the several periods when I did not get paid. The government have not thought this through at all, and like others, I have been wondering about all those thousands of zero hours paid staff. We see, and sympathise with, reports of pubs and restaurants being flooded, sweeping out their cellars etc., but for every one of them, there are a small group of zero hour staff not being paid, worrying about meeting this month's rent. Apply this to bars, shops, restaurants that have to close due to self isolation and you have a double whammy. Students too, my son's gf has no parental support, pays her own rent, food, bills, etc., by working a couple of zero hour jobs, what will happen to people like her? Sadly, this is going to be very very serious for small business, and for 'small employees' of big business, I can't imagine Wetherspoons or Sports Direct pay if you have to self isolate. What about supermarket staff?

Lizbethann55 Mon 02-Mar-20 19:15:36

I work in a public library. All the libraries have public access computers which are constantly in use. I asked the other day if we should be sanitising the keyboards and monitors. I was looked at as if I had come up with the most ridiculously bizarre question ever. Also we are used as a communal gathering point for all the teenagers after close of school every afternoon. If their schools get closed due to this virus the children will all hang about in the library all day instead of locking themselves away at home. My chances don't look too good!🤧🤣

EllanVannin Mon 02-Mar-20 20:48:11

My D doesn't get sick pay, she has to use up holidays if she's off.

Doodledog Mon 02-Mar-20 21:21:04

There doesn't seem to be anything approaching a coherent plan.

One minute we are being told that retired medics will be asked to go back to work to cover for sick colleagues, and the next that over 60s could be asked to stay indoors (!!!)

It is also possible that public transport might stop as well as schools and public buildings being closed. If that happens, it will be chaos, as parents will have to stay at home even if they are well, and others won't be able to get to work even if their workplaces are open.

People are concerned about their holiday plans, and there is bound to be an impact on tourism, as I can't imagine those who haven't booked yet doing so until the last minute, as people stand to lose their money or have to travel whether they want to or not.

I know it is difficult to predict what is going to happen, but it would be useful to know more than we are being told about what the consequences will be in various circumstances - a bit like financial predictions based on what would happen if different interest rates prevail over the course of a policy.

Urmstongran Mon 02-Mar-20 21:42:14

Thinking about all this in such depth is making me more anxious. We could be in a right mess. Or not, hopefully.

annep1 Mon 02-Mar-20 21:57:44

If you are in a job which doesn't pay your wages when you are ill eg civil service you are only entitled to SSP which is approximately £90 pw. No good to anyone at any time. My borother worked for a bakery. Every time he was ill he had to give up his rented accommodation as he couldn't pay the rent, and move back home until he was well. No one can survive on SSP.

annep1 Mon 02-Mar-20 21:59:55

Sorry what I meant was a job like the civil service will pay you your wages while you are off sick. Many don't.

jura2 Mon 02-Mar-20 22:13:50

Low wage people, as usual, will not hve the choice. As said on BBC right now 'pay rent and feed kids, or not'. No statutory sick pay for those who choose to self-isolate either. Cleaners, carers, taxi drivers, etc, etc, etc - can't 'work from home via computer'

Chewbacca Mon 02-Mar-20 22:33:13

My DIL is a pre school nursery assistant, on minimum wage, and she has been told that, in the event that she or a family member becomes ill with virus, she'll be expected (quite naturally) to stay away until officially given the all clear. She will not be paid in her absence.

Sparkling Mon 02-Mar-20 22:54:59

We all have to be more diligent with what and whom we touch, if we get Ill, get SSP straight away and not wait 3 days for it to kick in, it's little enough as it us.
We have to let things carry on, being extra careful, but how many months could this drift on? It's frightening, it's out there and hiding away won't stop it. Many will get it in a mild form, others with reduced immune systems will not be so lucky. Eventually a vaccine for it will be found.

Labaik Tue 03-Mar-20 00:38:27

I thought that, if a member of staff or a pupil had the virus the whole school had to close anyway? Not just increase class sizes?

quizqueen Tue 03-Mar-20 00:57:10

The government cannot be expected to pay the wages of all the people who have to stay off work, neither are they responsible for the spread of this disease. People should make sure they have savings instead of the latest smart phone or Sky tv.

GagaJo Tue 03-Mar-20 06:27:57

Very judgemental statement QQ. Not everyone is as fortunate as you, clearly.

Sparkling Tue 03-Mar-20 06:45:57

That one person with the virus that closes a school, wheover and whatever they have touched, before setting foot in the building? They have unintentionally spread it anyway before sitting in that classroom, where and from whom did they get it. It is completely bonkers to think we are still at the stage when it can be contained. I worry for the young people, not myself as I have had a good life. Every day past 70 is a bonus. I hope a vaccine is found soon.

Daisymae Tue 03-Mar-20 07:25:51

Hancock says that people should get sick pay if self isolating, he doesn't get that some people don't get paid for 3 days then get SSP only which is very little.

Urmstongran Tue 03-Mar-20 07:37:57

Not just zero hours workers it will affect. What about the self employed? If you are a one-man band as say, a plumber or decorator and you can’t work = no wages.