Ministers have been accused of suppressing access to sick pay for those who self-isolate during a peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Leaked emails suggested that the Treasury Department was instructing senior government officials to hide how a little-known feature of the vacation schedule could be used to access help.
The government did not deny the report, insisting that the purpose of the coronavirus job retention program is “always clear” to support jobs and “not for short-term absences from work due to illness or self-isolation”.
The Politico website’s Playbook newsletter that received the news said senior officials were ordered to hide the provision in January and February as Covid-19 cases rose along with the cost of the vacation program.
“Vacation can be used to cover self-isolation, but HMT (Her Majesty’s Treasury) refuses to explicitly state this in guidelines as it could result in employees being given leave who do not need it,” said a senior official to be on leave complained.
They also explained why access to vacation pay had to be approved.
“The incentive payments are too low to motivate employees to take tests because of the risk of loss of income,” said her complaint.
Labor, which called for more financial support to increase compliance with self-isolation, accused Chancellor Rishi Sunak of “shameful and reckless” behavior.
Statutory sick pay is £ 96.35 per week and is not available to everyone, while the one-time self-isolation payment for low-income people is £ 500.
Downing Street did not deny the report, instead saying, “Self-isolation should not be a consideration when a company is deciding whether a company should take an employee on leave”.
Official government guidelines state that the program “is not intended for short-term sick leave from work”.
But it adds that “employers who wish to take leave of absence for business reasons and they are currently sick are entitled to do so, just like other workers. In these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as an employee on leave. “
On Thursday, a Treasury Department spokesman said: “It has always been clear that the purpose of the vacation program is to support jobs – we have been open to it from the start.
“If an employer wants to take an employee off for business reasons and they are currently ill, they can do so like other employees. This has been recorded in the guidance since April last year. “
But Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said on a visit to Airbus in Bristol that he was “really concerned” about developments.
“Self-isolation is a huge tool in the armory when it comes to defeating the pandemic, but too many people felt they couldn’t afford to self-isolate,” he told reporters.
“We have been saying this for a year or more, so I think the idea now that this has been suppressed is as wrong as we are fighting this pandemic.”
Joe Clarke, a national official with Unite, said, “This revelation is utterly disgusting and shows the government has been ruthless in the safety of workers.
“The government cynically suppressed this information from companies when over 1,000 people died from Covid every day.”