THE SNP have called for the Tory Government to prioritise sick pay in next month's Budget.

The party described the UK as the "sick man of Europe" when it comes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

They called for SSP to be increased in line with a Real Living Wage and made available to all for 52 weeks.

The UK currently has one of the lowest rates of sick pay in Europe, with the Council of Europe branding it “manifestly inadequate”, but it is the main support available for employees who need to self-isolate during the coronavirus crisis.

The Trade Unions Congress (TUC) has estimated that the average employee earning £531 a week would experience an 82% drop in pay in their first week off sick on SSP.

The Women’s Budget Group Women are less likely than men to qualify for SSP.

House of Commons Library research revealed that frontline workers, who are more at risk of catching Covid, would lose out on up to 83% of their pay if they took sick leave.

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The self-employed and employees earning less than £120 per week do not qualify for SSP. Research from the Resolution Foundation shows that this means one in four part-time workers and one in seven workers in retail, hospitality and leisure are left with no income if they have to self-isolate at home.

Philippa Whitford, the SNP's health spokesperson, called for action.

She said: “It is shameful that we are almost a year into a global health pandemic, in which self-isolating is crucial to getting Covid infections down, but the UK is still the sick man of Europe when it comes to sick pay.

“Statutory sick pay in its current form is one of the lowest in Europe and not flexible enough to meet the needs of real people. We need a system fit for the 21st century and the current global health pandemic  yet the Tories are so out-of-touch with reality that they either cannot or will not recognise this. The UK Government must use the upcoming budget to increase and extend sick pay.

“It is shameful that the Tories are forcing people and families into a position where they have to risk their health, and the health of others, just to put food on the table. The welfare system – including sick pay – is supposed to be a safety net for people when their circumstances change through no fault of their own.  

Witford went on: “With the full powers of independence, the Scottish Government would have the ability to provide a social security system that meets people’s needs and ensures they are not driven into financial hardship by Coronavirus or any other illness – as other European countries do.”

It comes as a think tank report said UK needs to quadruple its planned crisis spending to restore jobs, investment and services amidst the pandemic.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “boost it like Biden” as researchers calculated that £190 billion is needed to get the UK economy back on track.

This is four times as much as Mr Sunak has committed so far and a figure which matches the ambition of US President Joe Biden’s new administration, according to the think tank.

Failure to deliver this risks the UK economy falling into a “stagnation trap” with about half the rate of economic recovery, the report by the IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice warns.

It found that the economic boost so far announced by Mr Sunak for the fiscal year 2021/22 is worth about 2% of the value of the entire UK economy prior to the pandemic.

However, a recovery plan worth £190 billion – equivalent to around 8.6% of the value of the economy – would deliver a faster recovery and halve the number of job losses.

This would be similar to the scale of the 1.9 trillion dollar stimulus package planned by the Biden administration, which is equivalent to 8.9% of the value of the US economy.

The report said the UK stimulus should be focused on supporting businesses, workers and households hardest hit by the pandemic, restoring public services and helping the growth of sustainable industries and jobs.

Carsten Jung, the IPPR’s senior economist and lead author of the report, urged the Chancellor to use next month’s budget to provide “bold support” for the economy.

“All in all, the risk of doing too little far outweighs the risk of doing too much,” he said, “Joe Biden has understood this. Rishi Sunak should follow his lead.”

George Dibb, head of IPPR’s Centre for Economic Justice, said: “We estimate that an ambition similar to that of the US would be needed to get our own economy back on track.

“Otherwise we will face years of unnecessary economic pain, with fewer jobs, less investment and a slower recovery for everyone.

“It’s time for the UK to boost it like Biden.”