The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures that aim to at make managing self-isolation and sickness pay easier for both employer and employees. Here, Buzzacott's HR Consultancy provide guidance on legal compliance and practical measures, pulled together as key HR takeaways we believe you need to know.
To support people affected by COVID-19 self-isolation and sickness absence:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
This will be available from day one for employees who fall ill, are self-isolating or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. Usually, to qualify for SSP you have to have been off work sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days). As SSP (£95.85 thereafter) will be often be a fraction of many people’s usual salary, employees may likely experience financial pressures. We also recommend employers consider, if they are able to, to pay over and above statutory sick pay rates, even where it is not the usual policy. Isolation (sick) notes to support the sickness absence and self-isolation will be required, however, GPs will not issue these. Rather, employees will be able to obtain a certificate from NHS 111 online.
Those who are not eligible for SSP
Those who work within the gig-economy, the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit (of £118 per week), can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. The requirement to attend a Job Centre to claim benefits will be relaxed and the claim can be made either by phone or online. Furthermore, the Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, from day 1 of sickness, rather than day 8.
To support businesses experiencing increases in costs or financial disruptions as a result of COVID-19 self-isolation and sickness absence:
From 26 May 2020, a new online service will be launched to allow small-and medium-sized businesses (employers with fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020) to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will enable employers to receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.
The refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either:
• have COVID-19 symptoms
• cannot work because they are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
• are shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks
Employers can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee, however, for that employee, this must not be for the same period of time.
To prepare to make their claim, employers should keep records of all the SSP payments that they wish to claim from HMRC. Further guidance can be found here.
This article was last updated on 19 May 2020.