Statutory Sick Pay and Protection for Workers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:03 pm on 18th March 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Justin Tomlinson Justin Tomlinson The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 1:03 pm, 18th March 2020

We are in extraordinary times. The coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation, but the Government will do whatever it takes to get our nation through it. We all need to pull together. We can, must and will get through this.

Before I proceed to the main part of my speech, I want to pay tribute to all our fantastic staff, particularly those on the front line who are doing their level best, where they can, to enable some of the most vulnerable people in society to continue to receive benefits, and to enable those who now need to gain access to those benefits to do so. The spirit of this debate shows Parliament at its best—we are all seeking to work in partnership.

These are uncharted times, and there are new things coming forward. I have talked to lots of stakeholders in the past few days as we have made announcements about our Department. In normal times, we could spend 18 months developing policies—testing them, carrying out engagement up and down the country, and talking to people with real-life experiences to make sure there are no unintended consequences—but we are on a daily basis having to review things. It is a credit to the Opposition that this debate is being conducted in a spirit of partnership, so that we can look at and feed in things that need to be considered to provide further support—I know that more support will come forward on a daily basis.

Our policy is to protect lives and fight this virus with everything we have. Everyone should follow Government guidance to control the spread of the disease. Those who have a high temperature or a new contagious cough, and those who share a home with people presenting these symptoms, should stay at home in self-isolation for 14 days. Everyone should avoid unnecessary travel and social contact with others, and people who can do so should work from home. That will help to protect the NHS and safeguard the most vulnerable.

I reassure the House that the Government will provide a safety net and support for individuals during this testing time. Everybody will be supported to do the right thing, and the Government will help employers to support their employees to do the right thing.