Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Britons were ‘soldiers’ because they went to work sick and made others ill. Hancock made the comments during a speech at the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference in London. He said: ‘Why do we in Britain think it’s acceptable to be a soldier and be able to work when you have flu symptoms or a runny nose and make a colleague sick?
I think that needs to change and I am very concerned about the health and safety of our workforce and the future of the public sector.
A recent report by insurance company Aviva, which ushered in the age of ambiguity, found that the rising anxiety following the coronavirus pandemic has led to employees working longer and taking fewer sick days, while 43% of workers described their well-being as “less than good” and 84% said they would continue working even if they felt uncomfortable. If you need to stay home to protect yourself or others, stay home, but if you have flu in the future, such as symptoms, get tested and find out what’s wrong. The number of workers who had zero sick days in three months has risen from 67 in February to 84 in August 2020.
Research for the report, repeated in August, said that “the relationship between the workplace and the health and well-being of its employees is becoming increasingly fluid.” While this flexibility is welcome for some, it creates discomfort and uncertainty for many others.
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) said low sick pay in the UK was one of the main reasons workers continued to work in case of illness. The statutory health and care insurance contribution that covers salaries in the UK is only 29%, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council.
By comparison, the national average is 37% for workers in the US, 35% in Germany, and 29% in the UK.
For those who qualify, the rate is so high that the TUC says that £95 ($85) a week is not enough to pay the bills and four in ten workers would run into financial difficulties. The union is calling on the government to scrap the current PS100-a – weekly pay cap for sick leave workers, increase the weekly sick pay cap to PS330 – and give employers the means to afford it for all their workers.