The government has today announced its new Track and Trace system. In addition to the current self-isolation advice for those with symptoms (7 days) and those who live with people with symptoms (14 days), the government has added a new requirement that anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has had a positive test requires 14 day self-isolation.
The problem remains that millions of workers lack occupational sick pay and cannot afford to take time off work. At best, these workers will only get Statutory Sick Pay at just £95.85 a week, which is less than a third of the take home pay of a minimum wage worker. It is not enough to live on.
The government has quietly acknowledged that low pay and the absence of occupational sick pay is major problem for slowing the spread of infection. In the NHS and more recently in social care, they have acted to ensure that all workers have the right to isolate on full pay. There are problems with the way this has been done (see relevant sections of website) but they have acknowledged the core argument. Under pressure from trade unions many employers have made similar provision.
We know from a recent GMB survey that fear of impoverishment on SSP means that workers are avoiding being tested. Under huge financial pressure many will also avoid complying with the instruction to self-isolate if contacted by a contact tracer.
The Track and Trace system will only be effective if all workers are guaranteed the right to isolate on full pay. The government has already taken action on this issue in the NHS and Social Care. They should extend the right to full isolation pay to the entire workforce.
Until they do we advocate workers follow the lead of trade unionists in Lambeth Council, London Underground, Amey, the Civil Service and elsewhere: organise and win sick pay for all!