Immigrants from the European Union are claiming sick pay whilst living and working abroad, reports the Daily Express. The paper claims to have uncovered evidence that EU nationals are being given the £87.55 a week statutory payment despite not even being in the United Kingdom.
The loophole exists because British employers are obliged to pay out to anyone who has a doctor’s note. It cannot be claimed by someone who has another job, but British firms have no way of proving that an employee is working abroad.
Also the doctor’s note does not have to be from a British doctor, and claimants do not have to be living in the United Kingdom. This means that some people are travelling back to their home countries in Eastern Europe from extended periods, but are still entitled to claim because they post a doctor’s note in from time to time.
Anyone who has been off sick for more than four days in a row can claim this payment for up to 28 weeks. The allegations of fraud come days after the Government admitted it was unable to stop EU migrant workers from claiming £30m a year in child benefits for children who do not live in Britain.
A payroll manager at a firm in the South-west employing Polish drivers told the Express that one members of staff took 16 weeks sick leave last year and has racked up 12 weeks this year. British employment law means that it would be illegal for the company to sack anyone for being ill, even though the circumstances are suspicious. In this case they believe the man has a second job abroad.
The manager said: “Days before the employee is due to return we receive a doctor’s note and just before that expires, we will receive another one, and so it continues. How is it right an individual is paid benefits when they are not even in the country? It is happening and there is nothing we can do about it.”
The company claimed to have two other members of staff who were off sick for long periods but returned to their home country during that period.
UKIP MEP Tim Aker said: “This scandal once again demonstrates the Government has lost the plot on controlling immigration. Britain needs to get a grip and stop those seeking to milk the system. We can only realistically do it by getting out of the EU.”
The Department for Work and Pensions denied that there was a major problem with fraud but did admit it does not keep records of migrant claims.
The allegations are likely to further add to pressure on the government to deal with the problem of benefits tourism. However, they are very limited on what they can do as EU regulations make it clear the British have a duty to allow anyone from the block into the country.