DWP rule changes to Statutory Sick Pay would save 7m workers from cliff edge

Changes to the DWP eligibility rules for Statutory Sick Pay would help millions of people across the UK, including around 650,000 in the West Midlands. The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change are calling for reforms to the current system to improve workplace health and prevent lower-paid employees from facing a financial crisis when they are unwell.

New analysis published by the two organisations shows that making SSP available from day one would benefit 649,000 employees in the region who would no longer have to wait until the fourth day of illness before getting any support. This is just over a quarter (26 per cent) of all employees in the West Midlands – and in some local authorities the proportion who will benefit is even higher.

Within the West Midlands, the rule changes would help just over 110,000 people in Birmingham, 43,000 in Coventry, almost 40,000 in Sandwell, 36,000 in Dudley, 22,000 in Solihull, 30,000 in Walsall, and nearly 27,000 in Wolverhampton. It would also benefit over 67,000 people in Worcestershire and nearly 105,000 in Staffordshire.

Across the UK, this law change would help 7.4 million workers overall, rising to more than a third for labourers and cleaners. The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change warned that without reform, workers will continue to face a financial cliff edge if they become sick at work, as their income takes an immediate plunge on the first day and support only starts three days later.

As a result of the current sick pay rules at the Department for Work and Pensions, those on the lowest pay are hit hardest. In the West Midlands, 120,000 workers get no SSP at all as a result of not meeting the lower earnings limit which stands at £123 a week since the new benefit rates came in this April. The vast majority missing out due to this lower earnings limit are women.


The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change are urging all the political parties contesting the General Election to commit to ending the four-day wait and giving sick pay protection to low earners. Removing the earnings limit would help around one million more workers, over two-thirds of whom are women.

The organisations say both of these measures are part of the Labour Party's New Deal for Working People and are supported by a range of organisations including Mind and Young Lives vs Cancer. They add that these reforms would make a big difference to many families as well as improve public health by reducing the risk of people going to work when sick and spreading infections.

Midlands TUC spokesperson Rob Johnston said: "Nobody should be plunged into hardship when they become sick. But hundreds of thousands of workers in the West Midlands face a financial cliff edge if they get ill. Making people wait three days before they get any support is just plain wrong – especially in the current cost of living crisis. That's why it is essential that SSP is available from day one and available to all.

"Being forced to work through illness is bad for workers and bad for public health. Labour's New Deal for Working People would fix this problem. With sick pay rights from the first day of sickness, you will know that your family is protected. And you can take the time you need to recover."

Amanda Walters, Director of the Centre for Progressive Change, which coordinates the Safe Sick Pay campaign said: "The three unpaid sick pay waiting days means a full-time worker on SSP gets an effective sick pay rate of just £1 an hour. Charities, workers, businesses and trade unions are calling for the next government to change this broken system.

"Sick pay that supports workers financially to take the time off they need means they're at less risk of being forced back to work before they are ready, spreading bugs or harming their own long-term health. This is good for workers, employers and the economy alike."

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