HC Deb 11 July 1962 vol 662 cc1327-8
7. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Labour what steps are being taken in his Department to promote wider arrangements for sick leave with pay; and whether he will introduce legislation to make the necessary amendments to the Wages Councils Act, 1959, so that wages councils may recommend minimum conditions for sick leave with pay.

Mr. Hare

The introduction of arrangements for sick leave with pay is a matter for employers, after discussion, where appropriate, with employees or their representatives. My officers give advice and information on sick pay arrangements to interested firms. I am advised that the Wages Councils Act, 1959, does not debar wages councils from proposing that, where the contract of employment continues during sickness, minimum payments should be made in respect of the period of absence due to sickness.

Mr. Prentice

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation on the latter point. Would he therefore take steps to encourage wages councils to help to extend sick leave with pay? Is this not a case where some sort of push by the Government would help the schemes to spread? Will he keep in touch with the survey which the T. U. C. is conducting at the moment among unions in connection with proposals for sick leave with pay?

Mr. Hare

I do not think I can prejudge particular proposals until I have considered them in detail. I would certainly give consideration to sick leave payments proposals provided they were within the powers of wages councils. I would not feel inhibited in this respect as was the last Minister of Labour in the Labour Government who turned down such a suggestion and referred back the sick pay proposals to the council concerned.

Mr. Fernyhough

Does the Minister realise that these 5 million workers are the lowest paid in the country? If they have no sick pay they have no resources to fall back on, because they have not been able to save anything out of the miserly wages they receive. The proposal is being made so that they should not suffer undue hardship.

Mr. Hare

I think I have cleared the atmosphere by saying that I am going a great deal further than did the Minister of Labour in 1951 when he referred back the proposals to the wages council concerned. I hope that what I have said will be noted by everyone concerned.