Business leaders and academics back call for support to self-isolate

Date published: 14 August 2020

Leading voices in the business and academic communities have called for targeted interventions to support workers, limit the spread of Covid-19 and protect the economy – echoing the message of the Time Out to Help Out campaign.

The campaign, launched on Monday by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram, and TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, calls on Government to implement measures that would see employees paid their full normal wage if asked to self-isolate when they cannot work from home.

A report published today (Friday) by a group of academics convened by the Royal Society, including leading UK economists, called for a review of statutory sick pay, a more flexible furlough scheme, and a rethink of unemployment support.

The report warns that current sick pay arrangements “create a financial disincentive to self-isolate, with half of workers continuing to work through mild coronavirus symptoms, which in turn makes it more difficult to control transmission.”

Sir Tim Besley, professor of economics at the London School of Economics and a co-author of the report, said that people asked to self-isolate needed to be “cushioned against the economic consequences of that”.

This week the North West Director of the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), Damian Waters, also called for “improved support” for businesses where staff are requested to self-isolate.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “As today’s report from the Royal Society shows, there can be no trade-off between lives and livelihoods.

"From business leaders and economists to trade unions, there is a growing coalition of voices calling for the Government to rethink its approach and support workers and employers to do the right thing.

“It can’t be right that people in low-paid, precarious jobs are forced to choose between paying their bills and protecting their communities.

"For NHS Test and Trace to work, all employees need to be able to follow its requests without facing a drastic loss of income.

“That’s why we’re proposing a system that would allow people to do their public duty and self-isolate, in the knowledge that they will continue to receive their full income.

“As we face the prospect of a winter without a vaccine, we must urgently fill these gaps in the national system.

"Without doing so, we risk leaving people exposed, with potentially devastating consequences.”

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