Updated: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.
Low-paid, gig economy and self-employed workers will all get financial support if they stay at home due to coronavirus, Matt Hancock has signalled.
The health secretary told MPs that he would make sure that no one would be penalised for “doing the right thing” to prevent the spread of the outbreak.
His remarks, the strongest sign yet that the government will intervene directly, came ahead of a meeting on Wednesday that is expected to agree new emergency legislation to deal with the virus.
The Budget is also set to deliver key support for businesses and individuals.
Labour and trade unions such as the GMB have repeatedly demanded extra protection for the low-paid and those working in the gig economy like home food deliveries.
In the Commons on Tuesday, Labour MP Preet Gill asked Hancock to include specific proposals in his emergency legislation to help 1.8m lower paid workers by removing the lower earnings limit of £118 per week for eligibility for statutory sick pay.
Hancock replied: “We will ensure that whatever the status of people who work right across the economy, whether they are self employed, whether they are employed but work fewer than the [required] number of hours a week, everybody will ensure that they get the support so they are not penalised for doing the right thing.”
Workers who ‘self-isolate’ themselves at home for 14 days are entitled to claim £94.25 a week in statutory sick pay from their employer, even if they’re not showing symptoms.
Boris Johnson last week agreed to fast-track sick pay to allow workers to qualify for the benefit from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain coronavirus.
Critics pointed out that the move would still leave many workers unprotected if they had to work from home.
The Department for Work and…