Millions have relied on sick pay during the pandemic (Image: Getty)
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Tory ministers were blasted tonight for scrapping plans to extend Statutory Sick Pay to 2million more people.
Two years ago the government said there was "a case" for removing the requirement for claimants to earn at least £120-a-week.
But the reforms were quietly ditched in a long-awaited response – prompting fury from unions.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The government has abandoned millions of low-paid workers at the worst possible time.
“With Covid cases going through the roof, its refusal to make sick pay available for all is grossly irresponsible and will help drive infections still higher."
Ms O'Grady also called for the government to raise the £96.35-a-week rate of statutory sick pay. She added: "This boils down to political choices. Giving everyone access to statutory sick pay would cost less than 1% of the failed test and trace scheme."
The plans were contained in a 2019 consultation called Health is Everyone's Business in the wake of the Taylor Review on working practices.
The Taylor Review recommended extending sick pay to those earning below the lower earnings limit of £120 per week.
At the time the government said there was a case for backing the move, which would extend eligibility to around 2million employees, including a million who work less than 16 hours per week.
Some 75% of people who responded to the consultation backed extending sick pay to lower earners.
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But tonight the government's response said: "The consultation posed several important questions on the future of SSP which require further consideration.
"Government maintains that SSP provides an important link between the employee and employer but that now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system."
A Government spokesperson said: “Statutory Sick Pay is designed to balance support for an individual when they are unable to work because of sickness, with the costs to employers of providing this support.
“As we learn to live with a new virus, it’s right that we take a broader look at the role of SSP.”