Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram joins forces with Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham to call for support for workers who have to isolate due to coronavirus. Tony McDonough reports
People required to isolate under the COVID-19 track and trace system should be paid their full wage while they do so, says Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram.
Mr Rotheram is joining forces with his Greater Manchester counterpart Andy Burnham, along with trade unions and businesses, to launch the national Time Out to Help Out campaign.
Requesting people to self-isolate when they are told they have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 is vital to control the spread of the virus, protect others and save lives.
However, Mr Rotheram and Mr Burnham claim that this is putting some working people in an impossible position. If they don’t isolate they may spread the virus but if they do they may face a period without being paid, putting them in financial dire straits.
The Metro Mayors say there is both an economic and public health imperative to making sure people do not face financial hardships if they do need to isolate. Mr Rotheram said: “A fully functioning track and trace system is our best hope of stopping the spread of the coronavirus and giving people the confidence to go about their lives safely.
“However, with no guarantee that their incomes will not be hit, millions of people – many who can’t work from home or are self-employed – will be dreading the idea of being asked to self-isolate.”
The campaign highlights the different scenarios that even those able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would still potentially see a big drop in income. At £95.85 per week, SSP amounts to just 22% of the median weekly earnings of workers in the Liverpool city region.
There is also around 47,000 people in the Liverpool city region who are unable to claim SSP because their incomes are too low. They include people in sales and customer services, process, plant and machine operatives, cleaners, bar staff, shelf stackers, and hospital porters.
There is also concern for self-employed people who do not have an income if they are not working and even if they are able to claim Universal Credit (which will depend on individual circumstances) it is likely to be lower than their usual income.
Mayors Rotheram and Burnham are calling for employees to still be paid their full normal wage if they are requested to self-isolate and are unable to work from home. Employers should then be able to claim that payment back from the Government.
Where the employee is receiving Statutory Sick Pay, the employer should be able to claim back the difference between Statutory Sick Pay and their normal wage from the Government.
Where someone is self-employed and requested to self-isolate and is unable to work from home, they should be able to claim for loss of earnings in the same way as the payments which are made to people who are required to go on Jury Service, they add.
“We cannot beat this virus by asking people to choose between putting food on the table or keeping their communities safe,” said Mr Rotheram. “People should be supported, not penalised, for doing the right thing and isolating at home. As the Government are right to want self-isolating to be seen as a national duty.”