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People should not be forced to choose between their health and paying bills, says Armstrong

Statutory sick pay (SSP) needs to be increased in line with the real living wage, to prevent anyone being forced to choose between their health and paying bills, Alliance Communities spokesperson Kellie Armstrong MLA has said.

The Strangford MLA said she had heard anecdotal evidence of some people deleting the Stop COVID app, due to people worrying about having to take time off work to self-isolate if they receive a notification and being unable to afford to do so.

The Trade Union Congress has called for the UK Government to increase SSP from £95.85 to £320 per week, in line with the Living Wage Foundations’ estimate of the ‘real living wage,’ in order to help those who have been forced out of work due to coronavirus.

“Myself and several of my colleagues have been approached by a number of people who have stated they have deleted the Stop COVID app, to avoid being notified about being a close contact of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus,” she said.

“They are being faced with making a decision between to keep using the app and risking receiving a notification, therefore having to self-isolate on statutory sick pay or carry on working, therefore potentially risking spreading the virus if they have it, to their family, friends, colleagues and customers.

“Employers need to ensure workers are advised alternative arrangements are an option, such as home working on full pay, or qualifying for further financial support under the Department for Communities discretionary support payment. I have submitted questions to the relevant Executive Departments and asked my colleague Stephen Farry MP to raise this matter with the Department for Work and Pensions in Westminster.

“Recent research shows two in five workers will be unable to pay their bills on the current rate of SSP if they have to self-isolate for two weeks. People should not be forced to decide between paying bills and their health, and the health of others.”