Analysis

Tories tell unpaid workers in 2-week COVID-19 isolation: claim benefit with 5-week waiting time

Johnson and Hancock said earlier there was no plan for paying workers in isolation because of coronavirus fears – but DWP indicates they will have to claim Universal Credit, which has automatic delay built in

Earlier today, both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that the government has no particular plan in place to ensure that low-paid workers will not face financial hardship if they ‘self-isolate’ to protect the public from the risk of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now indicated that those not entitled to sick pay – such as workers in the so-called ‘gig economy’ – who self-isolate will have to claim Universal Credit.

The required isolation for COVID-19 is two weeks. The hated Universal Credit system has been attacked for forcing claimants into hardship and poverty – because it has an in-built five-week delay before claimants receive any support.

The proposal has been described as ‘outrageous’ by furious unions and charities.

It is yet another example of the Tories’ reckless contempt and disregard for the safety and wellbeing of ordinary people – those facing a choice between isolating in case they are infected or putting food on the table will, in many cases, try to mask symptoms and hope for the best.

And that situation – driven entirely by Conservative incompetence and disdain for the real lives of the many in a situation where government experts admit that a half-million death toll is a ‘reasonable’ worst-case scenario – will put us all in deadly danger.

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14 comments

  1. It makes perfect sense on Planet Tory.
    Incentivise workers to keep turning up – Covid-19 or not – so that PLCs don’t lose money.
    When have tories ever cared one single iota about the health of the workforce? Every advance in healthcare – and sickness benefits – has been forced on them, and opposed every step of the way.

  2. It’s not a lack of regard for the needs and well-being of workers, but more an intense and viscous dislike of them.

    And as for the Torres who actually claim to ‘understand’ and be from “working class stock” (how patronising), they must really HATE the people who remind them of their parents and relatives.

  3. Since 2012, I’ve been reporting voluntarily to the UN on the welfare crisis impacting Britain’s sick and disabled. On February 1 I wrote the DWP, urging that department to develop a policy outlining its duties as well as the obligations of claimants during a pandemic and provide appropriate guidance to its staff and jobcentre workers.

    The DWP’s response, released today, has been sharply criticized and rightly so. Bernadette Meaden, who writes for the Ekklesia think tank, tweeted:

    “Very sad that the insecurity of so many workers is only now being treated as an important issue because their need to work when sick may threaten the wellbeing of others.”

    In my opinion, manifestly inadequate benefits will incentivize gig economy workers to seek work rather than self-isolate, fostering the spread of contagion among the populace. It’s also unclear whether they will qualify for sick pay. And the only way to stockpile food, medicine and toiletries on Universal Credit is to request an advance payment.

    Advances of up to 100% of a person’s predicted monthly payment are available for those struggling to get by during the initial wait. However, this has to be gradually repaid through monthly deductions to payments and charities argue that this traps people in a cycle of debt.

  4. IF the toerags start imposing all these working conditions there ought to be a general strike…But nobody’s got the bollocks.

  5. This isn’t really news. Unless *government* does something – which the previous article shows not to have happened, the DWP just trundles along.

  6. Dear Boris……One of the ‘joys’ of having such a flexible UBER ‘Labour Force’ is when you are self employed there is no sick pay, you have to work regardless. Que pasa?

    1. You seem to suspect that Mr Johnson cares about the health of the workers. I suspect this is wishful thinking. He doesn’t give a left-handed shite if they live or die.He’d just prefer it if they died cheaply.

  7. Is this a ‘class’ issue? The wealthy bourgeoisie’s preferred method of travel is not the bus. Time to ban air travel?

  8. COVID-19 will already be getting many on the right wet with anticipation.
    Fancy some nice new draconian powers to control public assembly & movement? Already done.
    Pensions bill – slashed.
    NHS bill – see above.
    NHS’ future liabilities slashed, population’s expectations lowered, NI doubled = price to US doubled. Ka-Ching.
    Housing shortage – what housing shortage?
    No wage rise impetus because the dead were all retired anyway.
    Lower population = MMGW crunch date set back – meh, maybe a week.
    Win win win win win win win.

  9. I don’t know what the treatment for a hospitalised COVID-19 victim might be but I wonder if it’s within the capabilities of lay people – family usually, and at home – maybe with the support of authorised medical professionals via one single official Q&A website?
    Even an IV line, once set up, might be possible to maintain with minimal training.
    A YouTube in slow motion, close-up and high resolution would be the perfect teaching aid for carers and potential voluntary carers.
    The NHS is likely to run out of beds and nurses very soon after a decade of Tory cuts.
    Such lay care might not be needed in the earliest stages of an epidemic but preparing the ground wouldn’t hurt and a Q&A site would make us all better informed and cost next to nothing.
    I just Googled NHS COVID-19 and there are more than half a dozen separate sites – no good.
    111 is likely to be quickly overwhelmed and a call centre is likely to be a vector for the virus anyway.

    All workers living in the same home should get sick pay and self-isolate on the first day one of them becomes sick with covid – the cost would be negligible compared to the cost of hospital care.
    With more than one working person per household the spread would be amplified anyway if one self-isolated and others continued working.
    Government not employers should bear the initial cost – increased corporation tax and emptied tax havens can pay us back later.

  10. Corbyn was doing well on this issue at PMQ’s, but the session illustrated one of his failings – he broke off the pursuit of getting Johnson pinned down in order to get in a question about Patel that was already well covered.

    Pity

  11. BBC News just now stated 87 known UK victims so far, 3 of whom have no apparent contact with ‘abroad’.
    In itself that knowledge is completely useless to us.
    What WOULD help would be red dots on a map. Then people have the push to take precautions more seriously and some might even remember being close to someone in their red dot town who looked ill.
    It may be too late now but containment would have had some chance of working if photographs, names & places of work of infected individuals, airports of arrival and their movements since arrival had been published.
    “Fear of retribution” doesn’t cut it as an argument in this kind of epidemic.

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