New campaign launched to help self-isolating workers get full pay

Reporter: Niall Griffiths
Date published: 10 August 2020

The mayors of the Greater Manchester and Liverpool regions have launched a new campaign for workers to still get paid when asked to self-isolate by the national test and trace system.

Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, together with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), want all employees to ‘fulfil their civic duty’ without falling into financial hardship.

The ‘Time Out to Help Out’ campaign wants all workers to get their normal wage when asked to isolate at home, which employers should be able to claim back from the government.

But there are concerns about ‘blatant blue collar discrimination’ as many workers would be unable to work from home if asked to self-isolate.

More than a third of people who have tested positive with Covid-19 have also not given any contacts, leaving significant holes in the test and trace system.

In Greater Manchester around 22,000 people have already been asked to self-isolate.

Mr Burnham, speaking at the launch of the campaign today (Monday), said: “We believe we need to give all employees the ability to agree to a request from the NHS test and trace system, and to self-isolate the minute they get it without any fear they won’t be able to pay their bills, feed their kids or end up in debt.

“If you get a request from the test and trace you are being asked to fulfill a civic duty, you are being to put your own health and the people around you first by taking that time off.

“If we don’t fix this we’re not going to have a test and trace system that properly works.”

The mayor for Greater Manchester warned that the poorest communities, where the virus has been ‘felt most profoundly’, could be left ‘dangerously exposed’ unless changes were made.

Most of these communities are in the former red wall, he added, which the government ‘claims to be supporting’.

Mr Rotheram added that hundreds of thousands of people trapped in poorly paid or insecure employment could be ‘pushed into destitution’ if they lost a fortnight’s pay.

The statutory sick pay currently offered by the government is £95.85 per week, which equates to 21 per cent of the median weekly earnings of workers in Greater Manchester.

But Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said 90,000 people in the region mainly on – and who are often women – are unable to claim it because their incomes are too low.

“I think there’s blatant blue collar discrimination going on here,” she said.

“It’s all very well for ministers to say people can work from home and self isolate at the same time but the simple truth is most blue collar workers in blue collar jobs can’t.

“I think we need a little less finger wagging about moral duty and instead ministers must recognise working people want to do the right thing.”

Along with the TUC, Time Out to Help Out has received the backing from Unison, GMB, Usdaw, Unite and CWU, as well as businesses.

A petition has been launched on the Time Out to Help Out website, which can be found here

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