With the rising number of UK Coronavirus cases, a fundamental element of the response from most employers has been to introduce protective measures to reduce the risk of further spread of the infection and contain the outbreak.
From a business continuity perspective, most employers are restricting travel by employees and many are implementing self-isolation or homeworking policies.
The question of eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is an important one in this context.
What is Statutory Sick Pay?
SSP is paid by employers to their employees or workers if:
- they have been sick and off work for at least four days in a row
- if they earn an average of £118 per week before tax
- if they inform their employer within the deadline the employer has set or within seven days
At present the SSP rate is set at £94.25 per week (£95.85 per week from 6 April 2020) and can be paid for up to 28 weeks.
Am I eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?
If you meet the above criteria you are eligible for SSP. The UK Government has changed the eligibility criteria by making SSP payable from day one as opposed to after three days as part of its response to the coronavirus. This came into force on 13 of March under The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020.
As SSP is paid by employers, you will not be eligible for SSP if you are self-employed. Those who are on zero-hour contracts will not automatically qualify for SPP if they earn less than the average wage of £118.00 per week before tax.
Steps taken by the Government
The emergency legislation confirms that an individual, who is self-isolating in line with UK Government guidance relating to the coronavirus, will be deemed incapable of work. At present the following is in line with new UK Government guidance as of 17 of March 2020:
- You must self-isolate if you have a "new, continuous" cough or high temperature
- If you live alone and you are displaying symptoms of the coronavirus illness (however mild) you must self-isolate and stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms began.
- If you live with others and you or one of your household members has symptoms of coronavirus, all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period begins from the day when the first person in the household became ill.
- For anyone within the household who starts displaying symptoms, they are required to stay at home for a period of sevem days from when the symptoms appeared, regardless of what day they are in the original 14-day isolation period.
- Fit note will be available from NHS 111 rather than visiting your GP.
The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 amends the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations at paragraph 2(1) to include the following definition of those deemed incapable of work:
“He is (i) isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales and effective on 12th March 2020; and (ii) by reason of that isolation is unable to work.”
The Guidance set out by the Government aims to implement the following:
- SSP will be a day one right for eligible employees who have been advised to self–isolate even if they've displayed no symptoms of having the coronavirus.
- Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example those who are self-employers, on zero-hour contracts, freelance or those earning less than the Lower Earnings Limit of £118.00 per week, can now claim Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance in line with the following:
(i) There is no longer a minimum income floor in Universal Credit for those on lower income.
(ii) People can now claim and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement for attendance at a job centre if they have been advised to self-isolate.
(iii) Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25 for those eligible and affected by coronavirus or those self-isolating in accordance with advice from Day 1 of sickness.
- The UK Government will enact legislation to allow small to medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to the coronavirus. The eligibility criteria for this support will be as follows:
(i) The refund will cover two weeks' SSP for those who are eligible and have been off work due to the coronavirus.
(ii) Businesses or employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible and the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.
(iii) The UK Government will also implement a new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme delivered by the British Business Bank to support small and medium sized businesses providing Statutory Sick Pay for 14 days.
This scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the Extension of Statutory Sick Pay to Self-Isolators come into force and the UK Government will work with the small businesses or employers to set up a repayment mechanism over the next few months.
It is not yet clear what the scheme will look like, however we would recommend for employers to keep and maintain records of staff absences as employees are not required to provide a GP Fit note.
The extensive guidance can be found on the government website.
The guidance issued by the UK Government is being updated on a daily basis and we will continue to provide updates on matters as they become clearer.
Get in touch
If you've any queries about this, or any other employment related matter that could affect your business, our team of specialist employment lawyers can assist. Please contact us on 0131 247 2534 to discuss further.