Friday 14 August 2020 9:17 am

Raise sick pay and extend furlough, Royal Society urges government

Statutory sick pay should be increased and the furlough scheme extended, according to a new report by the Royal Society.

The research has suggested it would be the best trade-off between public health and economic risk moving forward.

It argues that health and economic data should be combined to produce the best economic outcome at the smallest loss of life.

Read more: Dr Martens returns government furlough money after ‘resilient’ trading

The report by Professors Sir Tim Besley and Sir Nicholas Stern has cited statutory sick pay of £95.85 a week as a major disincentive for workers to self-isolate.

They argue that this would make track and trace an almost impossible mission and called for a review of sick pay policy.

In the report it also recommends a flexible extension to the furlough scheme, which abruptly ends in October for all sectors and is currently not appropriate to mitigate both health and economic risks.

“I think the furlough scheme in its current form is almost certainly going to have to be modified to be more targeted towards occupations that can’t resume anywhere near their normal level of activity,” said co-author of the report, Besley, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. 

“If people are being asked to self-isolate they need to be cushioned against the economic consequences of that”.

An introduction of subsidised workplace testing has also been suggested, as well as a recommendation for minimal rotation of staff between different shifts.

The government argues that it has protected 9.6m jobs and helped those needing it.

Read more: A third of UK firms plan job cuts by October as furlough scheme ends

“We’ve protected more than 9.6m jobs through the furlough scheme, supported more than two million self-employed people and paid out billions in loans and grants to thousands of businesses,” a government spokesperson said.

“And for those in most need, we’ve provided an unprecedented package of support including injecting £9.3bn into the welfare system, mortgage holidays and additional help for renters. 

“We’ve also made sick pay payable from day one and will refund employers with up to 250 staff the cost of up to a fortnight’s sick pay. Employers can, and many do, pay more than the statutory rate – something we encourage.”