Northumberland health boss calls for changes to sick pay to stop spread of Covid

Policy on sick pay needs to be change if workers are expected to isolate to stop the spread of Covid-19.

By James Robinson
Monday, 18th April 2022, 2:13 pm
Northumberland's director of public health Liz Morgan

That’s the message from Northumberland’s top health official after the legal requirement to isolate after contracting the virus was removed by Government.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, interim director of public health Liz Morgan said she acknowledged some people would be unable to isolate due to work commitments.

It followed a question from Coun Jeff Watson, who queried why the Government guidance was to isolate “if you want”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Mrs Morgan said: “There is no statutory requirement to stay at home. The problem we have is there will be lots of people who will be able to work from home, but there will also be lots of people working in less secure jobs with not particularly generous benefit packages, who can’t afford to stay off work.

“We are aware that a lot of people won’t be able to do that. There’s something to be said to look at the sickness benefits that are available and seeing if they’re fit for purpose – but that is for Government to look at.

“We really need to encourage people to work from home if they can, if they are feeling unwell.”

The public health boss was presenting a report to the board entitled “living with Covid” which was presented to members of the Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee earlier this month. During that meeting, Mrs Morgan told members that there was “no right time” to lift Covid restrictions.

On Thursday she explained that cases were levelling off in some age groups, but were continuing to rise in others. Discussing how to combat the virus in the future, Mrs Morgan said the most important defence was the vaccination programme.

She said: “The next few years will be bumpy. We can expect more waves that may be more transmissible or cause more severe disease.

“The vaccination programme has been absolutely critical. It’s why the Omicron wave is associated with milder disease here.

“We are probably going to need regular vaccinations and maintain high levels of uptake.”