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Statutory Sick Pay and Protection for Workers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Richard Fuller Richard Fuller Conservative, North East Bedfordshire 2:27 pm, 18th March 2020

I appreciate the hon. Lady’s intervention. I am not speaking for the Government—I am sure the Minister will seek to address that—but I have to say that it sounds to me as though her constituent’s employer is just making an excuse, because the Government have been absolutely clear that it is the right thing to do socially for everyone in this country, if they have a concern, to be able to isolate themselves from others and to work from home. What more does that person need to understand what they should do? I hope they will get that message very clearly from the Front Bench.

On the point of leaders not doing the right thing, the experience of Virgin airlines has been raised. The owner or partial owner of Virgin airlines has suggested that employees should take eight weeks of unpaid leave, and I decided to look at how much that would cost. Eight weeks at the £94.25 rate of statutory sick pay would cost £754 per employee. There are 8,571 employees of Virgin airlines, so if all of them took eight weeks of unpaid leave, that would be a cost of £6.4 million. Sir Richard Branson’s net worth is $3.8 billion. If he is able to get 2% interest on that money for eight weeks, he will earn the equivalent of £9.9 million. So I say: Sir Richard Branson, give up the interest on your wealth for eight weeks, and pay your employees yourself their unpaid leave.

Big or small—a leader of a church in a small village or a leader of the large business—when it comes to looking at the protection of their workers, the time is now, and we will judge them all by their actions. It will be the same for the Government’s actions.

As I say, are we choosing the right policies? We have heard a lot about that today. I congratulate the Government on the staging of the announcements. There is so much pressure—all MPs are under pressure, with loads of questions: small or micro ones, and very large ones covering many issues—but I think the staging of announcements is a good approach, because we need this to bed in with people each day. If we put everything into an announcement on a single day, I would worry that, although we would feel we were communicating, we would find that it was not being received and understood as clearly as it should be.