THE CHANCELLOR must increase sick pay to match the Real Living Wage in his budget, the SNP has urged.

The party has renewed calls for the Conservatives to increase the rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) and make it available for 52 weeks.

It has described the UK as the ‘sick man of Europe’ when it comes to SSP, arguing the country has one of the lowest rates in Europe, and raised concerns about the impact on low paid workers who may need to self-isolate throughout the pandemic.

It comes ahead of the budget on March 3, where Rishi Sunak is expected to lay out plans for economic recovery as the country continues to suffer as a result of coronavirus lockdowns.

READ MORE: Sunak urged to start weaning country off Covid support at Budget

According to the Trade Unions Congress (TUC) estimates, the average employee who earns £531 a week would have their income fall by 82 per cent in the first week they were off sick, if they were only relying on SSP.

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

House of Commons Library research has shown that those who have been on the front line in tackling Covid-19, who are more at risk of catching the virus, would lose up to 83% of their pay if they went off sick.

Low sick pay stopping workers from self-isolating, report says

Low sick pay stopping workers from self-isolating, report says

People who are self-employed, and those who earn less than £120 a week do not qualify for the payments, with think tank research suggesting this could mean a quarter of part-time workers and 1 in 7 retail, hospitality and leisure workers would have no income if they had to isolate at home.

The SNP’s Health spokeswoman Philippa Whitford MP said the situation was “shameful”.

Philippa Whitford - UK Parliament official portraits 2017.

Philippa Whitford - UK Parliament official portraits 2017.

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.”

A UK Government spokesman said: "There is a comprehensive package of financial support in place for workers who need to self-isolate - including a £500 payment for those on the lowest incomes who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace – and many employers pay more than the minimum level of Statutory Sick Pay.

“Scotland already has significant welfare powers and can top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits in areas of devolved responsibility.”