The poorest 10% of Dorset's female workers would not get sick pay if they were off work due to Covid-19, figures suggest.

In March’s Budget, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that Statutory Sick Pay would be extended to anyone diagnosed with the virus, or those self-isolating, from the first day they cannot work.

But you are only eligible for the £94.25 per week payment – covered by your employer for up to 28 weeks – if you earn at least £118 a week on average.

Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer has called for Statutory Sick Pay to be trebled to match the real living wage and extended to everyone who needs it, including the self-employed.

The lowest-paid 10% of female workers in Dorset earned £99.90 or less per week before tax in April 2019, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show.

This was well below the threshold for receiving sick pay – the figure stood at £209.70 for the bottom 10% of working men.

Across the UK, the lowest-earning tenth of male workers took home £234.00 or less weekly on average in April last year, while the figure was just £124.20 for women.

Commenting on his proposals, Keir Starmer said: “Millions of people are already feeling the impact of the economic shock caused by the coronavirus. We have all heard tragic stories of people expecting to be laid off work or see their incomes fall.

“We are potentially days away from further social-distancing measures that will change British life. It is imperative that the Government acts to support workers to buy food, pay the bills and cover the cost of living."

Sara Willcocks, head of communications at the anti-poverty charity Turn2us, said the pandemic had “highlighted how precarious it really is for millions of employees in the UK”.

She said: “Although people who fall below the Lower Earnings Limit are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, they may be eligible for contributory Employment Support Allowance.

“Failing that you can also apply for Universal Credit but you will be subjected to the five-week wait.

“We would urge any individual in this situation to look into what support they can apply for as soon as possible.”

Ms Willcocks added that the figures should be a wake-up for the Government to “build a proper social security net people can rely on”.

A government spokesman said: "As part of our emergency response to this unprecedented outbreak, Statutory Sick Pay is available from day one for those who must stay at home on government advice.

“Those who may not be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay are able to claim Universal Credit or contributory Employment and Support Allowance, dependent on their circumstances."