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Statutory Sick Pay and Protection for Workers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:01 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Will Quince Will Quince The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions 3:01 pm, 18th March 2020

I thank the hon. Lady for making that point. I reassure Members that the Government are doing all they can to ensure that everybody is supported to do the right thing. It is crucial that everyone follows the Government guidance on self-isolation—that has been clear throughout the debate—to protect themselves and others. The measures that we have announced and will put forward in the emergency Bill will support people to do so.

To come directly to the hon. Lady’s point, the Chancellor has announced that in the coming days the Government will go much further to support people’s financial security, working with trade unions—another point made by Navendu Mishra—and businesses to urgently develop new forms of employment support to help to protect people’s jobs and incomes through this period. I know that the hon. Lady would like to tempt me to go further but, as I think she will understand, that is somewhat above my pay grade. It is very important, however, that debates such as this take place, because it will have been heard by Her Majesty’s Treasury and will be taken in the spirit of working collaboratively on a cross-party basis. I certainly take those ideas on board, and if Members have further ideas about how we can better support some of the most vulnerable people in our society, my door is always open, and I would welcome them coming forward with those.

The right hon. Member for East Ham, the Chair of the Select Committee, raised the point about the habitual residence test. The test has operational procedures already in place to expedite confirmation of eligibility, but I will take this point away and give it further thought—I had not given it consideration before he raised it and I would be very happy to meet him to discuss it further.

We have a safety net that helps people facing hardship if they cannot work or are seeking work. Depending on their individual circumstances, employees can claim universal credit and/or new-style ESA or JSA. As the Prime Minister set out, the Government will keep everything under review. The package that was set out at the Budget and the new measures that were recently announced should give some reassurance that support will be provided to support jobs, income and businesses. As the Chancellor said, we will do “whatever it takes”.

We are in extraordinary times. The coronavirus pandemic is the most serious public health emergency that our nation has faced for a generation. Our policy is to protect lives and fight this virus with everything we have, and the Government have been clear in their approach: we will do whatever it takes to get the nation through these testing times. We will protect people, their jobs and businesses through this period to ensure that we keep as many people as safe as possible.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House
has considered the matter of Statutory Sick Pay and protection available for all workers.