Workers will get statutory sick pay from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain coronavirus, the prime minister has said.
Boris Johnson said people who self-isolate are helping to protect others from the virus and should not be “penalised for doing the right thing”.
The emergency legislation means people will receive an extra £40.
It comes as health bosses said it was “likely” but not definite the virus will become an epidemic in the UK.
Officials believe up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of an epidemic in the UK.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Mr Johnson if the sick pay announcement would help those currently not eligible for statutory sick pay – such as those on zero hours contracts, or self-employed people.
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In order to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) people must be earning at least £118 a week.
Many people such as those on zero-hours contracts – who work variable hours every week – may earn less than this.
The prime minister said “a great many” people would be entitled to statutory sick pay, adding: “Others will be entitled to help through existing systems such as universal credit.”
SSP is set at £94.25 a week, so those who will benefit from Mr Johnson’s announcement are expected to receive an extra £40.
Some 53 people in the UK have tested positive for the virus, which causes Covid-19.
The government has launched a major public health campaign urging people to regularly wash their hands.