Last updated 28 May 2020
Eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay
Many businesses willl have had, and continue to have, employees absent from work either because they are suffering from COVID-19 or self-isolating/shielding in line with the Government’s recommendations.
As explained in February’s Employer Focus, SSP is payable to qualifying employees who are off work for four or more days in a row at a rate of £94.25 per week, for up to 28 weeks.
SSP can be paid if an employee is unable to work because they:
- have COVID-19 symptoms;
- are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms;
- are self-isolating because they’ve been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they have come into contact with someone with COVID-19; or
- are shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay home for at least 12 weeks.
Normally, SSP is not payable for the first three days an employee is off sick, which are referred to as ‘waiting day. However, at Budget 2020, it was announced that, from 13 March 2020:
Following this announcement, guidance on GOV.UK has been updated to provide more information as to exactly how this will operate in practice:
If self-isolation began before 13 March because the employee had symptoms of COVID-19, waiting days still apply and SSP is payable from the fourth day of absence.
If self-isolation began on or after 13 March because the employee had symptoms of COVID-19, SSP is payable from the first day the employee is off work.
Employees who were self-isolating before 13 March because someone they live with had symptoms only qualify for SSP from 13 March.
If an employee began shielding on or after 16 April, SSP is payable from the first day the employee is off work.
SSP is not payable for any shielding which took place before 16 April 2020.
If an employee began self-isolating on or after 28 May 2020 because they were informed by the NHS or public health bodies that they have come into contact with someone with COVID-19, SSP is payable from the first day they are off work.
In order to claim SSP for COVID-19 related reasons, employees must inform their employer within any normal sickness notification time limit which their employer has set (or within seven days if they have not set a time limit). They also need to provide an isolation note (available online from NHS 111) if they cannot work for seven or more days because of COVID-19 self-isolation. There is no need for an employee to visit a GP or hospital to get a fit note as they would for other forms of sickness absence.
Claiming back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees
Alongside the above changes, the Government have launched a new Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which will repay employers up to two weeks of the standard rate of SSP paid to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020, or periods of shielding starting on or after 16 April 2020.
The scheme can be used by employers who:
- are claiming for an employee who is eligible for sick pay due to COVID-19;
- have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020; and
- had fewer than 250 employees (taking into account any connected companies or charities) on 28 February 2020.
The scheme covers all types of employees, including full-time, part-time, agency workers and those on flexible / zero hours contracts.
Employees do not need to provide a fit note, but can be asked to provide either an isolation note (available online from NHS 111) if they are self-isolating, or the NHS / GP letter telling them they are high risk and should therefore shield.
Applications to reclaim SSP can be made using an online service which launched on 26 May 2020. Claims made using the service will be checked, and if valid paid directly into the nominated bank account within six working days.
Agents who are authorised for PAYE online can claim on behalf of their clients. If a business would like to use an agent, but do not have one authorised to do PAYE online for them, they can authorise them by accessing their HMRC online services and selecting ‘Manage Account’. The business must be enrolled in PAYE online for employers to do this and will need to ask their agent for their agent ID. The agent can get this from the HMRC online service for agents by selecting ‘authorise client.’
Employers must keep the following records for at least three years in respect of all SSP payments they wish to claim for:
- the reason why the employee could not work;
- details of each period when the employee could not work, including start and end dates;
- details of the SSP qualifying days when the employee could not work; and
- National Insurance numbers of all employees they have paid SSP to.