Workers who need to self-isolate amid the coronavirus outbreak will qualify for sick pay from day one instead of the current four days, the Prime Minister has confirmed.
Boris Johnson announced the introduction of emergency legislation in the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions, as the number of cases in the UK rose to 53.
Since then, latest estimates have put the number of people affected in the UK to 85 – the biggest jump in the country so far.
John Hopkins University, which is tracking the global reach of coronavirus, says that there could be as many as 94,000 confirmed or suspected cases since it was first in Wuhan in China in December.
The announcement on sick pay comes after the PM said yesterday that around six million people – a fifth of the working population – could be absent from work as a result of the ongoing crisis.
The Prime Minister said today that “nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing’ amid fears people could lose out financially if they self-isolate”.
Announcing sick pay changes from day four to day one, he told MPs: “If they stay at home and if we ask people to self-isolate, they may lose out financially.
“So, I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules, and I think that’s the right way forward.
“Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing.”
But political opponents said it is still unclear if the latest change will apply to self-employed workers or anyone on zero-hour contracts.
Coronavirus: Official government advice
- Coronaviruses are a family of viruses common across the world in animals and humans.
- Certain types cause illnesses in people.
- For example, some coronaviruses cause the common cold; others cause diseases which are much more severe such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), both of which often lead to pneumonia.
- COVID-19 is the illness seen in people infected with a new strain of coronavirus not previously seen in humans.
- Based on current evidence, the main symptoms of COVID-19 are a cough, a high temperature and, in severe cases, shortness of breath.
- As it is a new virus, the lack of immunity in the population (and the absence as yet of an effective vaccine) means that COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively.
- The current data seem to show that we are all susceptible to catching this disease, and thus it is also more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.
- Among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms.
- Early data suggest that of those who develop an illness, the great majority will have a mild-to-moderate, but self-limiting illness – similar to seasonal flu.
- It is, however, also clear that a minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care, most often pneumonia.
- In a small proportion of these, the illness may be severe enough to lead to death.
- So far, the data suggest that the risk of severe disease and death increases among elderly people and in people with underlying health risk conditions (in the same way as for seasonal flu).