Harlow councillor: The Exploitation of Low Paid Workers Will Contribute to the Spread of Coronavirus

Health / Wed 4th Mar 2020 pm31 12:43pm

The Exploitation of Low Paid Workers Will Contribute to the Spread of Coronavirus

By Shannon Jezzard


YOU can’t log onto Twitter or Facebook, or turn on the news without hearing about the spread of coronavirus.

Whilst we must avoid the scaremongering, we need to take it seriously, and do everything we can to keep ourselves healthy, and lower the risk of catching it. As it stands, the government’s main piece of advice is to wash your hands for 20 seconds – namely to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’ (although I myself much prefer the chorus to Beyonce’s ‘Love on Top’).

I do have a growing concern about the low-waged, often zero hour contract or ‘gig economy’ workers in Harlow, the ones included in Tories’ often boastful employment statistics, regardless of if their income is actually enough to cover their cost of living.

If you find yourself to have symptoms of the Covid-19 virus, the advice is to self isolate for 2 weeks. For someone like me with a full time office job and a busy schedule; the idea is daunting. However, if you’re a worker on a zero or low hour contract job – which are often in public facing roles – the idea is not only daunting, it’s almost impossible when you’ve got rent and bills to pay.

Statutory sick pay in the UK is just £94.25 a week, and currently you have to have been off work sick for four or more days in a row to receive it; even though it is barely enough to cover the cost of living. If you earn less than £118 a week, you don’t qualify, which makes 2 million workers in this country not earning enough to receive it, meaning they face going without any income whatsoever if they have to take time off.

Our everyday expenses don’t stop in the midst of a health pandemic, so – through no fault of their own – workers infected with the virus may be forced to continue going into work, regardless of how ill, contributing to the spread of the virus and worsening their condition; which is a cause for concern, especially if workers are coming into contact with vulnerable people, who may experience more serious symptoms if caught.

It was reported that a case of coronavirus was being treated at PAH, one of currently 39 known cases in the UK. The BBC recently reported up to a 5th of the workforce may be off work during the peak of the coronavirus. A large majority of low wage, zero or low hour contract jobs are within public facing roles, from shop workers, hospitality staff, cleaners, and carers, they are all jobs whose workers are prone to the spread of infection. With the spread ever continuing, there is a high chance more people – especially those already in ill health – in Harlow will become affected.

If the Tory government is serious about addressing this crisis, it should start by scrapping the earnings threshold for statutory sick pay, and it must ensure that all workers – regardless of income or contract – get adequate sick pay from the first day of absence in line with the cost of living.

What’s my advice? Wash your hands, of course. Avoid going out in public if you find yourself having symptoms (if you’re able to), but also join a union, as they will fight for your rights in the workplace. There’s always an opportunity to improve our quality of life, and that starts with the rights of workers. No worker deserves the stress of missing 2 week’s pay because of the inevitable spread of an illness. We need to demand sick pay for all.

Sign the TUC’s petition here: https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/sick-pay-for-every-worker-on-day-one

Please do get in contact with me about your experiences of sick pay and fighting illness in the workplace. The Tories won’t fight for you, but Labour and your union will.

Stay safe all.

Cllr Shannon Jezzard

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

12 Comments for Harlow councillor: The Exploitation of Low Paid Workers Will Contribute to the Spread of Coronavirus:

2020-03-04 13:34:44

If you really have concerns about low-waged workers in Harlow, from shop workers, hospitality staff, cleaners, and carers, why are you taking away their only option of living accommodation, HMO's?

m ingall
2020-03-04 14:07:35

Dear apolitical, Harlow are not closing HMOs, we are using covenant powers to refuse additional HMOs but only if the proposed additional HMOs are likely to cause a problem. Well run existing HMOs will see no change. Thanks Mark

2020-03-04 14:08:15

I can't believe this is a political rant against the Conservatives rather than a genuine public health concern. While i agree with the sentiment of low paid workers being highly impacted, that is the same as a number of diseases and even some we can even vaccinate against. Take for example the case of a parent on a zero hours contract with two children who have chickenpox. With having to keep children at home from school or nursery the could lose at least two weeks worth of wages, even if the child doesn't have any complications. While other countries do, the UK does not currently offer the vaccination for this on the NHS and you have to pay privately for it. So there's another health inequality there. Now given the number of hospitalisations in a condition like chickenpox because of complications currently vastly outstrips the impact of Coronavirus on the working population, using Coronavirus to make this point in particular at this time is somewhat misleading and has an element of timely political point scoring. Has the Labour Party camapigned for lets say vaccines to be included on an infant immunisation schedule in order to help low paid workers before? Nope it has not. Yet suddenly a virus like this comes around, which let's remember has only killed 1 British person...in Japan, and here we go big campaign. Let's not lose perspective on this. Also take into account that 4 out 5 people tend to have mild to moderate symptoms and it's only the elderly and those with immune suppression and other issues like diabetes etc who are at most risk from this disease. The public health risk is spreading it to those people, so the likelihood of people taking more than a few days off sick and triggering sick pay conditions is very limited. Even if the risk is to the individual and they are too unwell to work, it is no greater risk to the working population than say flu. Again, is a free flu vaccine offered to those on low wages? No, it's elderly, children and those at risk. Have Labour campaigned for a flu vaccine to be free to those who can't afford to take time off work? Again...no. In short, if you are serious about this policy and public health then there are two ideas right above that Labour could work on and campaign for. As for jumping on this for Coronavirus, i'm sorry it's the wrong bus to jump on, and a few busses to late to be taken seriously. Come on, sort out your public health policy and be consistent with it rather than be polularist on the issue of the day. If you really believe in this, then i hope you'll take up the campaign for other preventable diseases to be protected against, and if you care about workers and sick pay there are a number of things that could be implemented in the name of public health to prevent time off work. So let's stop just bashing the opposition, and have a little think through what your policy actually is for all rather than the hot topic of the day.

2020-03-04 14:38:34

No your not closing existing HMOs but doing everything in your power to prevent additional HMOs. from opening. Encouraging industries into Harlow requiring employees, Science Hubs requiring Scientists and 2,700 PHE employees on their way. Do you have an affordable housing strategy to cater for the influx?

2020-03-04 15:44:35

Way behind with today's news Mz Jezzard, ssp, will be paid to everybody from day one, no waiting days, to-day in Parliament by Boris. Also, you appear to be 6onfusing Harlow, with downtown Delhi's ba6k street ma6hine shops.

2020-03-04 16:13:14

oh mickey, you're not right, you're not right, you blow my mind, hey mickey, hey mickey. boz/handcock has not said anything about statutory sick pay for ALL workers. there's still 2 million that do not qualify for statutory sick pay, because they do not earn enough - namely zero hour/low waged workers. there is still an earnings threshold to even qualify. this is literally what the majority of this article is about. please check your facts before you make a futile attempt to undermine me.

m ingall
2020-03-04 18:36:20

Dear Apolitical Yes we do have plans to provide affordable housing, and by that I mean social housing that is truly affordable at Council House rents on long term secure tenancies. Our local plan provides for 12,000 new homes with 30% of those being social housing available for Harlow residents in the Harlow housing needs list. Do watch out tomorrow for an announcement on this issue. And we're not doing everything we can to prevent new HMOs, we are simply making sure that any new ones are in places that doesn't adversely impact on existing residents and that they are run properly. Thanks Mark Ingall

2020-03-05 06:50:00

@ S J, I'm afraid that you,"undermine" yourself. In the real world, part-time employment has never enjoyed the same benefits as full time, for obvious reasons, ie, pension 6ontributions, et6. Momentum never gets anything right, (sorry), think about the pa6k of lies put out by anyone asso6iated with them, L M / Mrs A......i and of 6ourse the lo6al 6eleb who tried so hard to foist the above on us all, ele6tion results shows how far out of tou6h you all are. 6an't wait for the lo6al ele6tions to 6ome round.

2020-03-05 09:55:59

sorry micky love, part time work is still work. you've lost this one - as you usually tend to do. don't forget to pick your pride up off the floor x

2020-03-05 12:10:35

If any HMO is adversely impacting on a neighbourhood such as rubbish, untidy gardens, noise and anti-social behaviour, there are adequate Regulations available to the Council to deal with these on an individual basis. Why is the Management of Houses in Multiple Occupation (England) Regulations 2006 not being enforced by the council?

2020-03-05 13:37:11

@SJ, in your little en6losed world, the general publi6 are more aware than you 6are to think, they are wise to the trash pseudo politi6o rubbish that you spout forth. Referring to anyone who holds another opinion to you, and your Marxist 6ronies as "love" shows your 6omplete la6k of 6lass.

2020-03-07 14:45:41

Just to bring S J up to speed, many so called minimum hours workers, ie, 4 hours a day, also do a cash in hand job in the afternoons, but, being Leftist you'll probably deny it. Foot in mouth syndrome seems very popular with some of our Socialist councillors.

Leave a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published.