Tory ministers face fury after telling thousands of British holidaymakers they can’t claim sick pay when they come home from Spain.
Up to 600,000 Brits in Spain must quarantine for 14 days on their return after spiralling Covid-19 cases prompted a last-minute clampdown.
Yet they won’t be able to claim £95.85-a-week Statutory Sick Pay. Instead, Brits must rely on bosses’ generosity to either let them work from home; pay a non-legally-required rate of sick pay; or keep paying them full salary while they’re stuck indoors.
They can only get SSP if they have to self-isolate for a different reason – like developing coronavirus symptoms or being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
No10 refused to budge – saying “no travel is risk-free”.
Instead the PM’s spokesman said people should claim Universal Credit – whose first full payment takes five weeks – or even go to work dispute service ACAS.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “No one should suffer financially for following official advice to quarantine.
“It’s not holidaymakers’ fault that the guidance has changed.
“Wherever possible, employers should do the right thing and pay quarantined workers their full pay.
“The government must also make it clear that people who can’t work from home during quarantine will be eligible for statutory sick pay. And they should increase sick pay from £95 a week to at least the level of the real Living Wage of £320 a week.
“In addition, ministers should change the law to stop employers from sacking quarantined workers.”
Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds slammed Tory ministers for “crossing their fingers and hoping employers will do the right thing”.
She told the Mirror: “The government knows you can’t live on less than £100 a week if you have to self-isolate with Covid-19, but it’s done nothing to boost sick pay in over four months.
“Now it’s telling returning holidaymakers to self-isolate without any support. Once again ministers are just crossing their fingers and hoping employers will do the right thing.
“It’s another abdication of responsibility from a government that can’t get a grip on this health crisis.”
Lib Dem leadership candidate Layla Moran said: “These rules need to be urgently updated so people are not left out of pocket for doing the right thing.
“Many people returning from Spain risk losing income because they are self-employed or cannot work from home.
“The government has a duty to step in and give them the support they need.”
If people in quarantine are caught leaving their home, except for a number of exemptions, they face a £1,000 fine – though only one has been dished out so far in England.
The government’s own website makes clear SSP is not available to those self-isolating after a holiday.
It says: “You cannot get SSP if you’re self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.”
The Mirror contacted government officials this morning to clarify if there would be any exemptions for people coming back from Spain.
But officials stood by the policy – pointing to Foreign Office advice that warns “no travel is risk-free”.
The harsh decision will leave thousands of zero-hour or part-time workers at the mercy of their employer and could throw some into crisis.
It comes despite Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claiming workers should not be “penalised for following the rules.”
Mr Raab told Sky News yesterday: “You cannot be penalised in this country lawfully for following the rules and the law that’s in place.
“And obviously we expect employers to respond flexibly and in an understanding way.”
Care minister Helen Whately added today: “We’re asking employers to be supportive and understanding in their situation.
“There are people who went on holiday to Spain not expecting to quarantine when they come back and now they’re having to quarantine because that is the right thing for protecting the health of the country.”
The British Chambers of Commerce today called for extra support to firms who find their workers can’t come in for two weeks after a holiday.
Despite being a government policy, SSP itself is funded by employers for their workers.
Director-General Adam Marshall said: “Abrupt changes to quarantine measures will be yet another hammer blow for the fragile travel and tourism industries, both here in the UK and overseas.
“Firms will now have to manage the effects of this unexpected change as returning staff have to quarantine upon their return to the UK.
“Support measures should be extended to help firms and their employees manage the additional uncertainty generated by this and other government decisions.”
Spain was one of dozens of countries from which arrivals no longer had to quarantine for 14 days.
However, it has now been put back on the list after a spike in coronavirus cases in some areas.
Other countries like France and Spain remain quarantine-free – but a minister warned that will remain “under review”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman told returning Brits to claim Universal Credit if their employers were not“considerate” enough to keep paying them – despite claims taking five weeks for full payment.
The spokesman even claimed people who lost their work for two weeks could go to employment dispute body ACAS.
The spokesman said: “We would encourage employers to be understanding of those returning and flexible in accommodating their need to self-isolate – for example, by allowing them to work from home wherever that’s possible.
“Where this isn’t possible, we would expect that many employers would have their own policies in place for quarantine and we know some continue to offer full pay for all or some of the isolation period.
“If there are people who need urgent support, then they may be entitled to the new-style Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit.”
He added: “There’s support available for people who need it.”
The spokesman refused to say if the policy will be reviewed, saying: “We always keep our response to the pandemic under review and we regularly assess the support available – but there is support available for those who are in need.”