politics

Home working may continue after July says leaked memo – as £96 sick pay slammed


The government could stop short of telling millions of Brits to end 15 months of home working on July 19, a bombshell leaked paper has claimed today.

The internal advice suggests ministers should avoid telling people to return to the office – even when ‘step four’ of the delayed lockdown roadmap happens in England.

Instead, ministers should either stay neutral or actively encourage people to continue working from home, it claims.

The Cabinet Office paper, obtained by Politico, also reportedly delivers a stinging criticism of £96.35-a-week sick pay.

The internal assessment finds the current isolation policy only has “low to medium” effectiveness because people on low incomes and in precarious work do not have adequate support, it is reported.

Workers who earn more than a set threshold qualify for a statutory minimum weekly sick payment of £96.35 – which unions and Labour say is far too low.

Under-pressure ministers introduced a £500 one-off payment last year for people who have to self-isolate due to Covid.

But internal government reports have previously said it must be extended, because claimants must fulfil a long list of requirements including being in work and on certain benefits.

The memo reportedly says there are “barriers” and “disincentives” to isolating in economic costs, and in the long term people need better sick pay and further support.

Government sources did not deny the existence of the paper, but insisted there are no current plans to introduce the proposals.

It has not been revealed who wrote the memo, or how senior they were.

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The paper also reportedly savages the low rate of sick pay
The paper also reportedly savages the low rate of sick pay

Layla Moran, chair of Parliament’s all-party group on coronavirus, said: “It is incredibly damning that the government’s own internal assessment has found their current Test, Trace & Isolate policy isn’t working properly.

“Ministers must urgently fix this huge hole in our defences against Covid and start providing proper financial support to those required to self-isolate, as we have repeatedly called for.

“Stricter border measures are also needed to defend against the threat of Covid variants, along with a more ambitious approach to vaccinating the world.

“The government’s refusal to learn from its mistakes risks undoing our hard-won progress against the coronavirus. This shows why we need a public inquiry now, to ensure lessons are learned ahead of any future waves.”

The memo appears to be further evidence that Brits could be told or asked to continue Covid measures into the summer.

Boris Johnson ’s February roadmap aimed to remove all legal restrictions at step four, but did not rule out keeping some guidance – such as on ventilation, social distancing or masks on public transport – more permanently.

According to Playbook, government scientists say it needs to become normal for people who feel sick to stay at home.

There is also a debate about how long Covid self-isolation rules – likely to continue beyond July 19 – should last.

In a bombshell claim, it’s said that the memo has recommended removing perspex screens from pubs, restaurants and offices – because they are being used imperfectly and could actually make things worse by blocking air flow.

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The Cabinet Office has not commented on the claims.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We have paused at step 3 for up to four weeks due to the new Delta variant, and we will continue to assess the latest data on this variant over the coming weeks.”





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