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More than 7 million workers would benefit from day one sick pay boost – TUC analysis finds

1 in 4 employees currently have to wait three days before receiving statutory sick pay.

  • TUC and Centre for Progressive Change make joint call for sick pay entitlement from day one of illness and sick pay rights for low earners 
  • Millions face a “financial cliff edge if they get ill”, warns TUC 
  • “The next government must change our broken sick pay system”, says Centre for Progressive Change 

More than 7 million working people would benefit from making Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) available from day one of sickness, according to new analysis published recently (Sunday) by the TUC and the Centre for Progressive Change. 

The analysis shows that if the law was changed 7.4 million employees would be able to claim SSP from their first day of illness instead of having to wait until the fourth day of illness before getting any support. 

This is over quarter (26%) of all employees. And this rises to more than a third (36%) for people working in elementary occupations like labourers and cleaners, and to nearly two-fifths (39%) for people working in sectors like care and leisure. 

The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change warned that without reform workers across the country will continue to face “a financial cliff edge” if they become sick at work. 

Lowest earners hit hardest  

The organisations highlighted how under Britain’s current sick pay system those on the lowest pay are hit hardest. 

Over one million workers currently get no SSP at all as a result of not meeting the lower earnings limit which currently stands at £123 a week.  

And 7 in 10 (69%) of those employees missing out on SSP due to the lower earnings limit are women. 

If the Lower Earnings Limit rule was ended so that low earners can qualify for SSP, the number of workers that stand to benefit would increase by around a million. This estimate is based on TUC analysis showing that 1.15 million employees earn less than the Lower Earnings Limit. 

Fair sick pay rights 

The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change are calling on all the political parties contesting the general election to commit to: 

  • Ending the four-day wait for statutory sick pay, so that it is paid from day one of sickness (benefitting seven million workers). 
  • Giving sick pay protection to low earners, by removing the lower earnings limit (benefitting around one million more workers, over two thirds of whom are women). 

Both of these measures are part of the Labour Party’s New Deal for Working People and are supported by range of organisations including Mind and Young Lives vs Cancer. 

The TUC and Centre for Progressive Change say these reforms would make a material difference to workers. 

SSP is currently worth £23.35 a day for an employee working a typical five-day week. With 1 in 8 working age people having less than £100 in savings, every extra day of paid sick leave would make a big difference to many families. 

Improved sick pay would also help improve public health by reducing the risk of people going into work when sick and spreading infections. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak yesterday said:  

“Nobody should be plunged into hardship when they become sick. But millions of workers face a financial cliff edge if they get ill. 

“Making people wait three days before they get any support is just plain wrong – especially in the current cost of living crisis. 

“That’s why it is essential that SSP is available from day one and available to all.  

“Being forced to work through  illness is bad for workers and bad for public health. 

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People would fix this problem. With sick pay rights from the first day of sickness, you will know that your family is protected. And you can take the time you need to recover.” 

Amanda Walters, Director of the Centre for Progressive Change, which coordinates the Safe Sick Pay campaign, yesterday said: 

“The three unpaid sick pay waiting days means a full-time worker on SSP gets an effective sick pay rate of just £1 an hour. Charities, workers, businesses and trade unions are calling for the next government to change this broken system. 

“Sick pay that supports workers financially to take the time off they need means they're at less risk of being forced back to work before they are ready, spreading bugs or harming their own long-term health. This is good for workers, employers and the economy alike.” 

Editors note’s

Case studies:

  • Lara, 38, a former bar worker from Manchester said: "I went to work in the bar when I was coming down with norovirus because I wouldn't have been eligible for sick pay. I was so ill I was crying and shaking while serving drinks. My manager insisted I went home, but then I lost my whole week's pay and had to borrow food from my housemates to get by until my next pay packet.” 
  • Gareth, a shop worker in South Wales said: “I took a week off from the shop I work in last year. I got penalised with no sick pay for the first three days of my sick period. This added up to £200 off my wages. I have a terrible throat infection at the moment and dare not take any time off on the sick as I cannot afford to lose that amount of money again. It is a terrible situation that this country is in. It feels like a throw-back to the days before the welfare state when people could not afford to go on the sick.” 

​TUC analysis – full dataset for local authorities:

A full dataset is here  

For each local authority, the data gives the number of people who currently qualify for statutory sick pay and who would benefit from a change to sick pay rights from day one of illness. 

The data also gives the proportion of employees that would benefit (excluding self-employed workers). 

The data does not include working people who do not currently qualify for SSP due to the Lower Earnings Limit. 


The number of employees reliant on SSP by local authority has been estimated by applying the percentage of employees reliant on SSP in each occupation group to the number of employees in each occupation group in local authority. The source for occupational SSP data is given below. The number of employees by occupation group in each local authority was taken from the ONS Annual Population Survey.   

Occupational data:

Occupational data is based on survey data published by the DWP. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/health-in-the-workplace-patter…;

 Occupational category 

Employees reliant on SSP 

All employees 


Managers, directors & senior officials 


Professional occupations 


Associate professional & technical 


Admin & secretarial  


Skilled trades 


Caring, leisure & other services 


Sales & customer services 


Process, plant & machine operatives 


Elementary occupations 


Regional and national data for Great Britain: 


Employees reliant on SSP 


% of all employees 




North East 



North West 



West Midlands 



Yorkshire and The Humber 



South West 



East of England 



South East 



East Midlands 












Lower earnings limit (LEL) estimate: The estimate of 1.15 million workers with earnings below the LEL is based on TUC analysis of Q1 2024 of the Labour Force Survey.  

Household savings below £100: The figure of one in eight working-age people having household savings below £100 is taken from Resolution Foundation analysis of data from the Office for National Statistics. See figure 1 on page 17 of their report Precautionary Tales: Tackling the problem of low saving among UK households (February 2024) 

About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living. 


Channel website: http://gov.wales

Original article link: https://www.tuc.org.uk/news/more-7-million-workers-would-benefit-day-one-sick-pay-boost-tuc-analysis-finds

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