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16 April, 2021 Open access

Insecure workers face ‘triple whammy’ of a lack of sick pay, fewer rights and endemic low pay while also having to shoulder more risk of Covid-19 infection

TUC research reveals that insecure workers are nearly 10 times more likely to receive no sick pay compared to secure workers, while Covid-19 mortality rates are twice as high

Insecure workers face a ‘triple whammy’ of a lack of sick pay, fewer rights and endemic low pay while having to shoulder more risk of Covid-19 infection, the TUC has warned.

In Covid-19 and insecure work, the TUC analyses the nature and impacts of insecure work in the UK during the pandemic, finding a ‘shocking disparity in sick pay between workers in secure and insecure employment - revealed by polling that found that 67 per cent of insecure workers said they receive nothing when off sick compared with 7 per cent of secure workers.

NB - by insecure work, the TUC refers to the 3.7 million people who have a contract that does not guarantee regular hours or income (including zero-hours contracts, agency work and casual work), or where they are in low-paid self-employment (earning less than the government’s National Living Wage).

In addition, the TUC finds that multiple factors have led to a correlation between insecure work occupations and higher Covid infection and death rates, including -

While the TUC acknowledges that the reasons for mortality rates during the coronavirus pandemic are complex, its analysis shows that death rates are highest in the top four sectors that are synonymous with insecure work - including care professions and factory workers - and twice as high as in other more secure occupations -

Highlighting that its findings show that workers in insecure jobs are having to shoulder more risk of infection during the pandemic while also facing a 'triple whammy of a lack of sick pay, fewer rights and endemic low pay.', the TUC recommends that the government takes action to -

In addition, the TUC calls for new rights for workers to benefit from the protection that collective bargaining in the workplace can bring and for the effective abolition of zero-hours contracts - by giving workers rights to a contract that reflects their regular hours, at least four weeks’ notice of shifts, and compensation for cancelled shifts.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said today -

‘Too many workers are trapped on zero-hours contracts or in other sorts of insecure work, and are hit by a triple whammy of endemic low pay, few workplace rights and low or no sick pay. Lots of them are the key workers we all applauded - like social care workers, delivery drivers and coronavirus testing staff. This must be a turning point.

Ministers must urgently raise statutory sick pay to the level of the real Living Wage, and make sure everyone can get it - including those on zero-hours contracts and other forms of insecure work.

If people can’t observe self-isolation when they need to, the virus could rebound. No one should have to choose between doing the right thing and putting food on the table.

And ministers must tackle the scourge of insecure work by finally bringing forward their promised Employment Bill. It’s time to ban zero-hours contracts, false self-employment and to end exploitation at work.'

For more information, see TUC sounds alarm over 'stark' Covid mortality rates in insecure jobs.