Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
As a temporary measure, the government has passed emergency legislation that SSP will be payable to eligible individuals from day one of sickness absence, as opposed to from day four under normal SSP rules. This will be applicable where somebody has either been diagnosed with Covid-19 or if they are following government guidance to self-isolate. This measure only applies to sickness related to Covid-19 and not any other sickness.
Individuals may need to self-isolate because:
The SSP rate is £94.25 per week for the 2019/20 tax year and £95.85 per week for the 2020/21 tax year.
For businesses employing less than 250 staff (as at 28 February 2020), the cost of providing a maximum of 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full, as part of the emergency measure.
The mechanism for claiming payroll related deductions from HMRC is usually via an Employer Payment Summary (EPS) which is part of the RTI submission regime. However, existing payroll software and HMRC systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds for SSP and therefore the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism as soon as possible.
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness, and individuals can self-certify up until that point. Ordinarily, beyond day seven of absence, the employer would require some form of “fit note” issued by a GP/Doctor to cover any further period of absence. Employers are being strongly advised to use their discretion around the need for medical evidence in relation to employees who are advised to self-isolate, or who become unwell as a result of Covid-19. During the recent Budget announcement, the Chancellor confirmed that people who are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an alternative to the “fit note” by calling NHS 111 without the need for them to attend an appointment with a Doctor.
If a member of staff requires time off to care for a child who has been asked to self-isolate, the usual “time off for dependants rules” apply. There is no statutory right to pay for this time off but some employers might offer pay depending on the employment contract or workplace policy. An employee may also decide to use some of their holiday entitlement for this time off.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation.
If an employee is not sick but the employer tells them not to come to work, this is called a lay-off. An employer may also use short-time working whereby hours are cut. Please note that there is no automatic right to impose lay-offs or short-time working, so if your employment contracts/employee handbook do not have a contractual term permitting such situations, it will be necessary to negotiate the change with the affected employees.
Employees should get full pay unless the employment contract/employee handbook allows unpaid or reduced pay lay-offs. If unpaid, employees are entitled to statutory guarantee pay. The statutory maximum employees can get is £29 a day for 5 days in any 3-month period (i.e. a maximum of £145). Employees who earn less than £29 a day should get their normal daily rate. Employees who work part-time should have their entitlement worked out proportionally.
What if an employee does not want to come into the workplace?
If you need help with drafting a policy for dealing with absence and pay related to coronavirus in the workplace then please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free template.