Zero hours workers not excluded from self-isolation payments

8 April 2021
What was claimed

People who are in insecure work or on zero hours contracts are excluded from the government’s financial support for self-isolation.

Our verdict

These groups aren’t excluded from support but, like other workers, need to be on benefits or have a low income in order to be eligible.

“We need to support people to self-isolate and there are still many, many people who are excluded from the government’s financial support for self isolation - people who are in insecure work, on zero hour contracts and all the rest of it.”

On Sky News on Monday, 5 April, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office Rachel Reeves suggested that people who are in insecure work or on zero hour contracts were excluded from self-isolation support payments.

While claimants have to be either on benefits or have a low income, there is nothing that specifically excludes these groups from the support. The Labour party and Ms Reeves have not responded to requests from Full Fact to clarify or evidence the comments.

Who can claim self-isolation support?

In England, if you’ve been told to self-isolate by Test and Trace (either following a positive test or close contact with a positive person), or you’re the parent or guardian of a child who has been told to self-isolate, you may be eligible for a £500 payment. (Similar schemes exist in the other UK nations).

This is intended to cover lost wages for people on lower incomes, so claimants must currently be employed or self-employed, unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating, and in receipt of certain benefits. 

People not in receipt of benefits, but who have low incomes and may suffer hardship as a result of self-isolating, may be eligible for a £500 payment at the discretion of their local council.

Zero hours contract or insecure workers are included

Some councils state on their websites that people on zero hours contracts can apply for this funding.

A spokesperson for campaign group Zero Hours Justice told Full Fact: “Self-isolation support payments do not specifically exclude zero hours workers on the basis of their zero hours status.” This was also confirmed to us by the Trades Union Congress.

More generally, there are three main employment statuses: employee, worker and self-employed. The scheme says it is open to people who are “employed” and “self-employed”. The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) confirmed to Full Fact that “employed” covers both employees and workers.

Insecure work is a wider less defined category which could include zero hours workers as well as seasonal and agency staff. 

Again, there isn’t anything in the guidance which excludes these workers from being eligible for the payments.

That isn’t to say some of these workers may have faced barriers to accessing the funding.

The Trades Union Congress has reported that funding provided by central government to councils to administer the scheme did not meet demand, leading to some councils pausing discretionary payments to low-income workers not receiving benefits.

A spokesperson for DHSC said: “We are also increasing funding for local authorities to make discretionary payments of up to £20 million a month, enabling them to go further in providing support to people who are not on means-tested benefits but who will still experience financial hardship because they cannot work from home.”

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