This public health emergency has exposed the sheer inadequacy of our social safety net. Sick pay is too low, there isn’t adequate support for parents who have to take leave to provide care, and the self-employed and those on zero-hours are fighting to stay afloat. And the economic shock caused by the pandemic has risked the livelihoods of workers across the country.



I have been fighting for the government to take serious, radical action to shore up workers’ jobs and income. I am pleased they have announced a package of measures to protect the income of workers at-risk in businesses threatened by the economic shock, but they do not go far enough.

It is not too late for the government to act to secure our social safety during this unprecedented crisis and I believe it is in the interests of public health that they do so urgently.  

If you have lost income due to the pandemic or government restrictions, you can find information about financial support schemes here.

If your employer has less or no work for you because of coronavirus, they could get a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant to help them to carry on paying you.

This is known as being put ‘on furlough’ or ‘on flexible furlough’, and means that you’ll get at least 80% of your normal pay.

Our local council might be able to give you a Test and Trace Support Payment of £500 if:

  • you’ve been told to self-isolate
  • you live in England
  • you’re on a low income
  • you cannot work from home and will lose income as a result

Find out more or apply for a Test and Trace Support Payment.

You may also be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from your employer for every day of work you miss because of coronavirus. If you’re off work for 7 or more days, your employer may ask you to provide proof that you are self-isolating because of coronavirus. Check if you’re eligible for SSP.

However, Statutory Sick Pay is simply not enough and leaves a minimum wage worker, for instance, forced to take a £200 p/w pay cut. I have called on SSP to be substantially increased and extending to all workers so no-one has to choose between health and hardship.

You might be able to get New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if either:

  • you have a disability or health condition that affects how much you can work
  • you or your child has coronavirus, is self-isolating or is shielding

You can apply for it if:

  • you cannot get SSP
  • you’re under State Pension age
  • you have made enough National Insurance contributions over the last 2 to 3 years
  • you’re employed, self-employed or unemployed

Your savings and partner’s income will not affect how much you get. You might be able to get Universal Credit at the same time as New Style ESA. Find out more or apply for New Style ESA.

You could get Universal Credit if:

  • you have less than £16,000 in savings
  • you or your partner is under State Pension age

If you’re already getting tax credits, they will stop when you or your partner applies for Universal Credit.

You might be able to get Universal Credit at the same time as SSP or New Style ESA. Depending on your circumstances, Universal Credit can include additional amounts for things like rent or the costs of raising children. Find out more or apply for Universal Credit.

You could get Pension Credit if:

  • you and your partner have both reached State Pension age
  • your weekly income is below £173.75 (for single people) or £265.20 (for couples)

You might still be able to get it even if you have savings, have a pension or own your home. You can get Pension Credit at the same time as SSP. Find out more or apply for Pension Credit.

Gaps in the Government’s schemes mean that some self-employed people are not eligible for any support at all and I have been fighting hard for these gaps to be closed. You can find more information about the support that is available to self-employed people here.



You should work from home if you can. No worker should have their life or the lives of their loved ones risked simply by going to work. This was true before the coronavirus crisis and should not be cast aside now.

If you are attending your normal workplace, your employer must have undertaken a risk assessment to meet the government’s guidance on making workplaces COVID-secure. You can find more information about your rights at work here.

If you are being asked to work in an unsafe environment, I can help. You can tell me about any problems at work anonymously via

Please also report any concerns to the Health and Safety Executive by telephone on 0300 790 6787. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 10pm.

I’d urge every worker to join a trade union to make sure they have strong representation in their workplace both during and after this pandemic. You can find the right trade union for you and become a union member here.

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