CoronavirusEmployee RelationsWellbeing

British employees forced into work despite Covid-19 risks

The RSA (royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce) has warned that this growing ‘economic security trap’ is contributing significantly to the spread of the virus

British employees are forced to go into work amid Covid-19 due to inadequate sick pay and pressure from their employers, the royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce (RSA) has warned.

The RSA warned that this growing “economic security trap” is contributing significantly to the spread of the virus.

A poll carried out between 13 and 15 January 2021 by Yonder (formerly Populus) of UK workers has revealed that around one-in-25 (4%) British workers have worked within 10 days of a positive test.

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A further 6% of the respondents said they have worked with Covid-19 symptoms, rising to 8% of insecure workers and 13% of the self-employed.

Additionally, 12% of respondents said they were forced into work when they could have easily and more safely worked from home, and only 16% expressed the Statutory Sick Pay would be sufficient to meet their needs.

The RSA has now called for an emergency package to address economic insecurity, which includes allowing workers who have to self-isolate access to the furlough scheme, meaning statutory sick cover can be provided at 80% of an employee’s wages.

The RSA is also suggesting that employees should be able to retain the £20 per week uplift paid to recipients of Universal Credit and introduce a ‘basic income’ style scheme for the self-employed, paid to all those registered with HMRC.

Recent RSA research on key workers has found that many staff in key industries report struggling to take time off when unwell, including 29% of those working in social care.

Alan Lockey, head of RSA’s future work programme, said: “Our polling shows that millions feel forced to put themselves and others at risk of the virus because of insecure work, pressure from bosses, and the failings of our deeply inadequate welfare state.

“Rishi Sunak must close this ‘economic security trap’ — the terrible trade-off many workers face between their health and putting food on the table — by allowing self-isolating workers to access the furlough scheme, and retaining the £20 per week uplift in universal credit.”

He added: “We also need to see help for the millions currently excluded, through no fault of their own – and the self-employed in particular. An ’emergency basic income’ style scheme, using the current tax infrastructure, is the best way to help reach all this group and close the gaps which we believe are helping to increase the infection rate.”

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