The Resolution Foundation report has urged the government to extend the use of the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) to encourage more workers to self-isolate at home.
The findings revealed that with self-isolating continuing to play a crucial role in fighting Covid-19, the “financial difficulty” involved with isolating means that some people are refusing to self-isolate as they benefit more from going to work.
The foundation has proposed support for employees which includes being paid via the JRS and an “extension in the JRS” to include self-isolation payments, which would ensure workers retained 80% of their previous earnings.
The group has estimated this would cost £426m a month (up from around £112m which is spent on SSP) if 643,000 employees used the scheme. It is also calling for grants of up to £830 to be awarded to self-employed workers who need to self-isolate for ten days, if they haven’t already claimed.
It added that while the following package of measures would help to get Covid infections down, the failure of the UK’s sick pay regime “should not be forgotten” once the pandemic has passed.
The report notes that the main support available for employees who asked to self-isolate at home falls in line with their Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) whis is equivalent to £96 a week.
SSP reportedly offers the “lowest level” of government support provided across any advanced economy during the pandemic, replacing less than a quarter of a typical employee’s previous earnings.
Furthermore, the foundation explored how two million employees who earned less than £120 a week were not eligible for SSP.
For example, the group showed how data supplied by local authorities across West Yorkshire showed that only 1,783 payments have been made between 12 October and 25 November 2020.
Maja Gustafsson, researcher at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Getting people to self-isolate at home is one of the important tools we have in combating Covid-19. But asking workers to do that often involves a major financial sacrifice – and the UK’s sick pay regime has been woefully inadequate in providing the necessary support.
“Coronavirus vaccines will take many months to roll out, so more workers will need to self-isolate at home to contain the spread of the virus next year. Given the failure of the current sick pay regime.”
She added: “The Government must turn now to the far more successful job support schemes to provide workers and firms with the financial support they need to do the right thing.”