Temporary changes to the provision of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) were announced at Budget 2020, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. In the days since, we have had a high volume of calls from concerned employers wanting to know how to comply with the legislation and what it all means, in layman’s terms.
As a result, we thought it might be useful to put some of the questions we’ve received into a Q&A, so that others can benefit too.
What changes have the Government made to SSP, in response to the Coronavirus outbreak?
In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the UK Government have made changes to the provision of SSP. Statutory Sick Pay is now payable to individuals who are staying at home on government advice, or those who are infected. SSP will be payable from the first day that they cannot work and this will begin from 13 March.
Small and medium-sized businesses – those with fewer than 250 employees at 28 February 2020 – can reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to Coronavirus, for up to two weeks per eligible employee.
The Government will work with employers to ensure the repayment mechanism is available as soon as possible. Employer refunds for SSP cannot be facilitated by existing systems.
If an employee is self-isolating on the basis of Government advice, but is not ill, are they entitled to SSP?
In short, yes. On 12 March 2020, the Government made the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020.
The regulations confirm that qualifying employees who isolate themselves on the basis of advice published by Public Health England (or the devolved health authorities) will be entitled to SSP.
We have employees who are categorised as ‘vulnerable’ – i.e. pregnant women and those over 70 years of age. If they are forced to self-isolate and are unable to work for longer than two weeks, are we able to claim for a refund to cover the duration?
At present, the guidance relating to these circumstances is quite unclear. As the situation develops, the Government are publishing new advice and guidance to try and keep up. Until otherwise stated, we expect employer’s claims to be limited to 2 weeks.
An employee has children and needs to stay at home as a result of the school being closed. As an employer, what are our obligations given the circumstances?
As an employer, you must allow parents to stop working in order to look after their dependants. However, employers are not required to pay an employee whilst they are absent for this reason; the exception to this rule is where their employment contract states otherwise.
Many employers are allowing parents to work flexibly, to enable them to manage both work and childcare. This may be something you want to consider.
Does my employee need to provide a GP fit note, to prove that they are sick as a result of Coronavirus?
Employers must use their discretion when considering what evidence, if any, to ask for. If you do ask an employee to provide evidence of sickness, they can obtain this from NHS 111 Online. The employee should not need to contact their doctor.
At present, it is not clear whether the Government will legally require evidence of sickness if the employer wants to claim the two weeks SSP back from HMRC.
When we look back at when employers were able to reclaim general SSP, sick notes were a legal requirement. Therefore, we are advising our clients to err on the side of caution and obtain evidence.
How much is Statutory Sick Pay for Coronavirus?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is currently £94.25 per week. As an employer, you must pay at least the legal amount. However, should you wish to do so, you can pay more.
We know that the coming weeks and months are going to be challenging for many businesses and employers. Though we have adapted some of our working practices in response to the outbreak, we are still contactable by phone and by email. We actively encourage you to call on us for advice during this period of uncertainty.
Information is correct at time of writing (23/03/2020). Please keep an eye on our dedicated Coronavirus page, for the very latest news as we endeavour to cover the key issues affecting you and your business at this time. More information and advice is available on the Gov.uk website.