On 24 November, health secretary Matt Hancock addressed a joint session of the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee.
But one sentence from Hancock showed just how clueless he is about the reality for most workers in the UK. Hancock stated:
We are peculiarly unusual and outliers in soldiering on and still going to work, and it kind of being the culture that ‘as long as you can get out of bed you still should get into work.
What’s really peculiar?
Financial Times journalist Sarah O’Connor didn’t pull any punches in her analysis of what’s really peculiar about this country:
I see @MattHancock has noticed Brits are "peculiarly unusual" in going to work when sick. We're also "peculiarly unusual" in having the lowest sick pay in the OECD. Coincidence? It's hard to watch govt blaming people for working when sick, rather than fixing the reasons for it. pic.twitter.com/GmFmyyvW3g
— Sarah O'Connor (@sarahoconnor_) November 24, 2020
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David Schneider also highlighted one of the crucial reasons why people work when ill:
"Why do people keep working when ill?" says man whose party pays £13 a day in sick pay and allows zero hours contracts where people get nothing when ill.https://t.co/TNgxHYwjab
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) November 24, 2020
Stop going to work
According to the health secretary, Brits should stop “soldiering on” and going to work when they are sick, potentially making colleagues ill:
Why in Britain do we think it’s acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have flu symptoms or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?
I think that’s something that is going to have to change.
If you have, in future, flu-like symptoms, you should get a test for it and find out what’s wrong with you, and if you need to stay at home to protect others, then you should stay at home.
Hancock did, inadvertently, get one thing right, though. Things do have to change. No-one wants to work when they’re ill. But when it’s a choice of going to work with a runny nose or not being able to pay the rent or feed your kids, there aren’t many options left.
No-one wants to put friends and colleagues at risk by ‘soldering on’. But unless the government steps up and guarantees a decent level of sick pay that includes covering people on zero-hours contracts, this isn’t going to happen.
Additional reporting by PA
Featured image via screengrab
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