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Covid-19: SSP rule changes explained

No one is ever meant to get rich (officially at least) from a Government support programme. Anyone who has been on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) knows from first-hand experience what the Government has been paying out when someone is signed off sick. And it’s not much, says Adam Bernstein. 

Back in March, the Government was forced to change the rules so that instead of a four day wait before being able to claim, a sick employee self-isolating or shielding as a result of coronavirus or its symptoms could claim from day one. The Government clearly didn’t want unwell people in the workplace because they could not afford to take time off.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme permits small businesses to claim back up to two weeks of SSP per employee under coronavirus-related circumstances. The scheme opened for claims on 26 May and can be accessed via www.gov.uk. It’s of note that it applies to both current and former employees and at this point, the scheme has no end date.

Eligibility for the scheme

The scheme has various eligibility requirements and, of course, employers can only claim for an employee who is eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus. In detail, employees must have an employment contract and have worked under it, have been off for four or more days – including non-working days – earned an average of £120 or more per week, have given the correct notice and have proven their illness if it extends for more than seven days.

The scheme applies date-related timing for employee eligibility so that workers could be claimed for if they started self-isolating on or after 13 March because someone they live with had coronavirus, were shielding since 16 April, or started self-isolating on or after 28 May because they were notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they’d come into contact with someone with coronavirus. 

The repayment covers up to two weeks of SSP, starting from the first qualifying day of sickness if the criteria are met

On 22 June, the Government removed the shielding status that some employees have been granted as from 1 August. In essence, they will have to attend work unless there is some other medical reason which prevents them from doing do. 

Employee SSP doesn’t apply if the employee has been put on furlough. However, if the employee comes off furlough and subsequently becomes ill, they can be paid SSP, which the employer can reclaim.

To make a claim, employers should have had a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020 and employed fewer than 250 employees on that date across all PAYE payroll schemes. Connected companies can use the scheme if their combined number of PAYE employees was fewer than 250 on that date.

Coronavirus has clearly impacted how employees evidence their situation. As a result, they do not have to give their employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ for them to be able to make a claim. That said, the employer can still ask them to provide either an isolation note from NHS 111 if they are self-isolating and cannot work, or a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

Notably, full-time employees, part-time employees, those on agency contracts, employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts, and those on fixed term contracts are all eligible for SSP.

Procedure and timetable

The repayment covers up to two weeks of SSP, starting from the first qualifying day of sickness if the criteria are met; and more than one claim per employee is permitted, so long as no more than two weeks in total is claimed for.

As to what is paid, from 6 April, it’s £95.85 a week. Employers can only claim up to this amount no matter how much sick pay they actually give the employee. HMRC has a ‘sick pay calculator’ on www.gov.uk to help employers understand the amounts involved.

Lastly, HMRC requires records to be kept for three years after the date payment is received for the claim. The records must note the dates the employee was off sick that were qualifying days, why the worker was off work, and their National Insurance number. Employers can choose how they keep records of absence, but HMRC may want to see those records if there’s a dispute.

The process isn’t perfect and isn’t going to go that far in helping workers. However, it’s better than nothing, and employers need to follow the regime to be able to make a successful claim.

For more information, call HMRC on 0800 024 1222 or here 




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