Thousands of workers who get sick at financial risk – with women worst hit as one in three could survive just two weeks without income
- Women who take sick leave are at a bigger financial risk than men, poll finds
- One in three women said they would last two weeks or less without income
- Men have almost £3,000 more savings than women on average
Thousands of employed and self-employed Brits are at financial risk as they enter the new year due to poor sick pay standards and the rising cost of living, with women the worst affected, new research suggests.
With many workers forced to isolate due to Omicron and Britain’s statutory sick pay regime the least generous in almost all of the developed world, many workers could have another tough year in 2022.
Women in particular could face hardship, as one in three would last two weeks or less without income, according to a survey of 1,250 employed and self-employed Brits.
Sick: Women who take sick leave are at a bigger financial risk than men
Women who take sick leave are at a bigger financial risk than men partly because they generally have less savings than their male counterparts.
The research, commissioned by life insurance advice platform Anorak, found that men have almost £3,000 more savings than women on average.
It also found that one in five women have no idea how much sick leave they are entitled to.
As a result, almost half of the those polled said they were scared about their financial outlook, compared to just 34 per cent of men.
The research highlights the financial risk many people face when it comes to taking sick leave, particularly the disproportionate impact on women.
This is specifically an issue in the UK, where employed people who are off work due to illness for more than four days in a row are entitled to statutory sick pay of just £96.35 a week.
This is the lowest in almost all the developed world and lower as a proportion of the average worker’s income than in Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia or any other OECD developed countries.
Those who are self-employed are in an even worse situation, as they are not entitled to statutory sick pay – and again women may be losing out as more of them have gone freelance in recent years.
According to the Office for National Statistics, self-employment among women in the UK has jumped by 45 per cent over the past decade, compared to an 18.4 per cent increase for men.
Rising cost of living: Inflation hit 5.1% and is now predicted to reach 6% in the New Year
On top of this, households are facing their biggest squeeze for a decade in 2022 as inflation soars and tax hikes bite.
Late 2021 saw prices surge as the cost of energy and fuel rocketed. Inflation hit 5.1 per cent and is now predicted to reach 6 per cent in the New Year.
‘Women, in particular, have faced financial strain during the pandemic,’ said Tiina Björk, chief design officer at Anorak.
‘The results unveil the worrying exposure that millions of Brits face all across the UK, especially with long Covid cases on the rise.
‘Women, low-income families, freelancers and gig economy workers in particular should feel encouraged to protect their living costs through income protection as we head into winter, with increased risk of new variants and burnout.’
Income protection insurance, also known as income replacement, protects your monthly income if you can no longer work due to injury or illness.
It has never been a best-seller – partly because it is seen as complex, more expensive and pays out on a monthly basis instead of as a one-off lump sum.
It also hasn’t helped that income protection has been lumped together with the notorious ‘payment protection insurance’, also known as PPI.
Around 66 per cent of working adults in the UK do not have income protection and a quarter have never heard of it, according to Anorak.
The youngest Brits, aged 18-24, are the most savvy when it comes to protecting incomes from sickness, with 15 per cent buying income protection as a result of the pandemic – the highest of any age group.