Will zero hours workers get sick pay if they take time off due to coronavirus? – The Sun03/04/2020
WORKERS may be worried about what happens if they need to take time off work due to the coronavirus – and it's bad news for a majority on zero hour contracts.
According to the latest figures available by the Office for National Statistics, there were 974,000 Brits on zero hour contracts in December 2019 – a record high.
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Yet many of these don't earn enough money to make them eligible for sick pay, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
It means they risk being left "abandoned and penniless" if they have to take time off due to the coronavirus, added Mick Rix, national officer of GMB Union.
Plans published by the Government yesterday revealed that one in five Brits could be off sick at the same time because of the bug.
Below we explain your rights as a zero hours contract worker.
What rights do you have to sick pay if you have to take time off due to coronavirus?
UK workers are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as long as they've started working for an employer, are sick for at least four days in a row and earn on average at least £118 per week (£6,136 per year).
These rules still apply if you are working on a part-time or fixed-term contract.
Workers on zero hour contracts are entitled to SSP too, but only if you've done some work for the company and been ill for at least four days in a row, including your days off.
You'll also need to have earned an average of at least £118 a week before tax over the past eight weeks.
Sadly, if you don't earn more than the threshold, your employer doesn't have to pay you for time you take off sick.
And if you're not actually sick but have been told to self-isolate, you have no legal right to get paid as a zero hour contract worker either.
Yet it's worth checking your contract or ask your employer for clarity.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) said it's "good practice" for employers to treat time in self-isolation as sick leave and follow the usual sick leave policy.
Otherwise there's a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid, it added.
A spokesperson for TUC told The Sun: "No one should have to worry about making ends meet if they have to self-isolate or if they fall ill.
"Sick pay should be a day one right available to everybody."
TUC is calling for the Government to give every worker the right to sick pay, while Citizens Advice is urging it to clarify sick rights and to make sure the benefits system can respond to an increased demand.
GMB Union is also calling on employers to pay all workers sick pay regardless of their contract due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Sun contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for comment.
What do I do if my employer won’t pay sick pay?
Citizens Advice has previously warned that employers try to exploit confusion about workers’ rights to wriggle out of paying.
If you think your boss is refusing to pay what you're owed, ask them to fill in a government sick pay form called "Statutory sick pay and an employee's claim for benefit" (SSP1) and hand it back to you.
They should give you this within seven days of you going off sick.
Once they have done that and if you don't agree with the reasons, you can contact HMRC on 0300 200 3500 which will decide if you are entitled to sick pay or not.
If your boss still won’t cough up, you can contact ACAS which will negotiate with them on your behalf.
If you're not eligible for sick pay and you can't work
If you're not eligible to receive sick pay, it's worth checking whether you could get benefits such as Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
We've made a round-up of free online benefits calculators to check what you're eligible for here.
If you need any help claiming, you can contact your nearest Citizens Advice.
Alternatively, if you need to take time off you may be able to take holiday pay instead of sick pay.
Holiday pay is the same amount as your normal pay so it could help you stretch the cash until you're back at work.
You’ll need to talk to your employer about it though as they don’t have to let you.
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