Retail trade union Usdaw is urging the Government not to end, next week, free test kits and the requirement to self-isolate. The union believes caution is still needed while infection rates and deaths are still high and is also calling for a new deal on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “We can see that rates of coronavirus infections and deaths are thankfully in overall decline, but they are still very high and it is still too soon to be lifting all Covid safety measures. Ending free tests and the self-isolation rules will risk more infected people circulating in public and entering shops. Coupled with last month’s unnecessary end to mandatory face coverings in stores, that leaves shopworkers at greater risk of infection.

“More people catching Covid will mean more sickness absence, reduced staffing levels and disruption in workplaces. Being ill has a huge financial impact on low-paid workers, as too many are forced to live on Statutory Sick Pay of just £96.35 per week. Trade unions secured SSP from day one for Covid absences during the pandemic. This must continue and be extended to all sickness absences, along with sick pay reflecting average pay and being available to all workers.

“We are also concerned that charging for tests will price out poorer people and low-paid workers, particularly if rumours of £100 per test are correct. This is especially worrying given today’s research, led by the University of Manchester, revealing that the impact of the pandemic on the most deprived areas in England and Wales has been even more pronounced than first thought.

“Covid-19 is still very much out there. The Prime Minister appears to be determined to announce a lifting of all safety measures next week, but we hope he carefully considers the evidence, learns the lessons of the past and takes a more cautious approach. We have seen before what happens when so-called ‘freedoms’ are put ahead of public health and workers’ safety.”

Usdaw’s call for a new deal on Statutory Sick Pay:

  1. Improve SSP so it reflects average pay, rather than the current £96.35 per week.
  2. Pay SSP to low paid workers – those earning below the lower earnings limit of £120 per week currently do not qualify for SSP.
  3. Commit to paying SSP from day one for all absences, removing any reference to three waiting days.
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