Ministers should test statutory sick pay and see if they can ‘survive on it’, says peer

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Ministers should test statutory sick pay to see if they can survive on it, a Labour peer has suggested.

On Monday, Lord Sikka pressed the Government on why those too ill to work receive “such a low amount” of £96.35 a week.

He insisted that, should ministers try and live on that sum themselves, it could “generate some sympathy for the poor”.

The Labour peer’s comments came as the upper chamber discussed a report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development called ‘What should an effective sick pay system look like?’ and published in December 2021.

Lord Sikka said: “The statutory sick pay is around 27% of the minimum wage. Could the minister please explain why it is set at such a low amount, and whether it is tested on ministers to see if they can survive on it?

“At the very least that will generate some sympathy for the poor.”

Work and pensions minister Baroness Stedman-Scott said: “I cannot say it has been tested on ministers.”

She added: “I can’t say that, but I will go back to the Department (for Work and Pensions) and write to them.”

Labour frontbencher Baroness Sherlock urged the Government to do “something” as she argued people “shouldn’t have to work when they are sick”.

She said: “I’m glad the Government is thinking about this but it has been thinking about it for a very long time. The Government has consulted more than once on this. And it simply said yet again last year, ‘It’s not the right time’.

“But if the pandemic taught us anything, it means if you’re on low wages, in insecure work or you’re self-employed, you cannot afford to get sick. You cannot afford to do the right thing. So can we please do something, rather than wait for the next pandemic or the next bout of flu or the next difficult infectious disease to hit our country? Can we do something to enable people to do the right thing? We are a rich country. Surely people shouldn’t have to go to work when they’re sick.”

Baroness Stedman-Scott agreed people “should not be forced to go to work when they’re sick, especially with Covid”.

She added: “I know this probably won’t go down very well, but I can confirm this is in train. But I’m dreadfully sorry I can’t say when it will be done.”

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