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Sick pay in the UK is ‘far too low’, Matt Hancock tells Covid inquiry

Former health secretary Matt Hancock began giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)
Former health secretary Matt Hancock began giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

Sick pay in the UK “is far too low” and “I’d double it”, Matt Hancock has told the Covid-19 inquiry.

Under questioning from the Trades Union Congress (TUC), former health secretary Mr Hancock was asked about self-isolation payments for people suffering from Covid-19.

Sam Jacobs, representing the TUC, said the Government in March 2020 made sick pay available from day one (rather than day three).

Covid-19 pandemic inquiry
Former health secretary Matt Hancock said he would ‘double’ sick pay in the UK if he ‘had a magic wand’ (UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA)

Messages at the time from Mr Hancock suggested while he was supportive, it only solved half the problem.

Asked what the other half of the problem was, Mr Hancock said: “Well sick pay in this country is far, far too low.

“It’s far lower than the European average, it encourages people to go to work when they should be getting better.

“Having low sick pay encourages the spread of communicable diseases.

“Having higher sick pay… would encourage employers to do more to look after the health of their employees.

“Before the pandemic, I’d been on an internal Government campaign to significantly increase sick pay. I’d double it if I had a magic wand.

TUC Congress 2018
Matt Hancock commended former TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady, saying she was a ‘great service to the country’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

“So moving from three days to one day of payment was a small step, which obviously was necessary for the pandemic – and I enthusiastically embraced – but I would have gone far, far higher.

“We needed isolation payments from the start. We got them in the end by September. And I pay tribute to the Trades Union Congress for their campaigning on this issue, which helped me get it over the line.”

Mr Hancock further praised Frances O’Grady, then general secretary of the TUC, saying she was a “great service to the country in the role that she was in and she made an argument that I very strongly believed in.”