With the growing uncertainty around business and employee rights and regulations Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the UK Government has implemented a few changes relating to sick pay.
The main alteration outlined within The Budget 2020 was that as of Wednesday 11th March 2020, financial support will be available to those affected by Coronavirus.
An extension to the current SSP to include individuals who are either unable to work because they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are self-isolating in line with Government advice, even if they haven’t yet shown symptoms of the virus.
The UK Government had already announced that eligibility for SSP would be brought forward, meaning employees would have the right to SSP from day one rather than day four, effective from Wednesday 4th March 2020.
For those who are self-employed or earn below the Lower Earnings Limit (currently £118 per week), they will still not be eligible to claim SSP but the Government has stated that it will make claims for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance “easier” to claim – with the Minimum Income Floor being temporarily relaxed for those who have Coronavirus and for those who are self-isolating in accordance with government advice, to ensure that self-employed individuals are still receiving support.
For employers who have members of staff in self-isolation or affected by COVID-19, they are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask the individual to provide in accordance with SSP claims. If employees do need to provide evidence that they are staying at home due to the effects of COVID-19, they will be able to access NHS 111 Online – which is currently under development and will be made available to the public in the coming days.
The Government recommends the following in relation to the evidence required:
– Employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients
– If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of Conronavirus can get an isolation note from the aforementioned NHS 111 Online platform, and those who live with someone with symptoms and are in self-isolation can get a note from the NHS website
– Employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible.
Employers with 250 or fewer staff members will be able to reclaim SSP for employees unable to work because of Coronavirus and the refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee. The government has yet to announce the measures in place or the processes aligned to claim this back at the moment. The 250-employee limit is as of 28th February 2020, although it is unclear at this time how the connected companies’ rule might apply or affect eligibility.
*The statutory sick pay rate is set to increase from the current rate of £94.25 per week to £95.85 per week as of 6th April 2020.
This is, of course, an ever-changing situation and there are likely to be new measures and updates announced to assist with supporting both employees and employers in this challenging time. Further updates can be found on the Government website – Guidance for employers and businesses about COVID-19