Government urged to resolve sick pay problems with furlough scheme

Howard Beckett sat at a desk talking with a microphone

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, is urging the government to resolve a major discrepancy within the government's Job Retention Scheme which could prevent thousands of workers from being furloughed.

SSP concern

Unite has identified that the Direction under the Coronavirus Act which created the job retention scheme and the HMRC’s guidance on who is eligible differ with regards to workers receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

The HMRC Guidance clearly says that workers who were placed on SSP can be furloughed, however the Treasury Direction under the Act says that workers receiving sick pay are not eligible to be furloughed.

Shielding issue

The difference between the Direction and the Guidance potentially affects workers who are suffering from COVID-19, are self-isolating or are shielding because they, or a member of their household has, been instructed to due to a medical condition.

Unite has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, setting out its concerns on the matter, in the form of a pre-action legal letter stating that if the matter is not quickly resolved then the Union will have to take legal action on behalf of its members who are affected by this anomaly.

End confusion

Unite Assistant General Secretary for Legal Services, Howard Beckett, said: “It is vital that the confusion over who is entitled to enter the job retention scheme is quickly resolved.

“The HMRC guidance is mostly straightforward and fair. The problem is that it seems not to be supported by the Treasury Direction.

“Thousands of our most vulnerable members who have coronavirus type symptoms or are shielding are confused.

“The government has the ability to clarify this matter and ensure that all affected workers are fairly furloughed.

“Unite is hopeful that this is an error which can be easily remedied but Unite will take steps to protect our most vulnerable members if action from the government is not matching its words."