Prospect warns livelihoods are at risk from Covid-19 response

3 March 2020

The government’s response to Covid-19 is putting some livelihoods at risk.

The risk is in relation to types of insurance where self-employed people are covered if they are ill. They are not, however, covered if they have to self-isolate but are not themselves ill.  There is a similar risk that some employees, particularly in small or struggling businesses, may not be offered sick pay for their absence.

Several Prospect members have been in touch raising the specific problem that having self-isolated their insurance companies do not consider them covered because it is a personal choice rather than actual illness.

This could also be an issue for some employees who may find that they are not covered, and indeed for some businesses who if disproportionately hit could be unable to operate.

Prospect is writing to ministers asking them to look at the issue and to put provisions in place so that anyone doing their civic duty to help prevent the spread of the virus will not end up out of pocket.

We are asking for the government to:

  • strongly lobby insurance companies for them to cover self-isolation
  • establish a system to cover any lost earnings due to self-isolation that are not covered by insurance or by employers, perhaps through the benefits system
  • guarantee that businesses who cannot afford to cover this kind of absence will be supported
  • take a flexible approach with their own suppliers and call on other employers to do the same – for example letting freelancers work from home where appropriate

Mike Clancy, Prospect general secretary, said:

“The government is well behind the curve on addressing the potential economic and individual financial impact of its response to Covid-19.

“If people are losing their livelihoods because they are following the government’s advice then they must be compensated. That’s why we are writing to ministers to ensure they do what is necessary to support all workers.

“The prospect of losing out financially cannot be allowed to become a factor in containing the spread of this disease. Through nobody’s fault this could become a public health emergency, there is  no reason for it to also become an economic one.”

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We have published comprehensive advice for members worried about, or caught up in, the crisis.