Coronavirus (COVID-19) – changes to SSP rules for employees, small businesses and the self-employed
In normal circumstances Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is only payable to an employee on the 4th day of a continuous absence from work. Legislation is being introduced to change this to day one where an employee is unable to work due to the current coronavirus outbreak. This change will be effective from 13 March 2020.
SSP will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected. The weekly allowance for SSP is currently £94.25, rising to £95.85 on 6 April 2020.
Employers normally cannot recover the cost of SSP but as part of this measure small businesses (including groups of companies) who had fewer than 250 employees at 28 February 2020 will be able to do so for up to two weeks per employee. The mechanism for this claim has not been determined yet but is likely to take the form of a refund, rather than an automatic offset against normal PAYE liabilities.
Employers have been urged to use discretion as to what evidence, if any, they ask for in these circumstances, and it should be noted that, by law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. We would therefore suggest that employers require only anecdotal evidence to support a claim for the first 7 days, such as a copy of email correspondence with the affected employee. Individuals will soon be able to obtain more formal evidence from NHS 111 Online and this could be used to validate longer absences.
For the self-employed not eligible for SSP, contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by coronavirus or self-isolating in line with advice from day one of sickness, rather than day eight.
The situation regarding coronavirus and COVID-19 is obviously a fluid one and advice is being updated all the time. The Government’s current guidance for employers can be found here (this should be updated every few days): UK Government's COVID-19 Guidance for Employers
Advice from the NHS as to when to stay at home and how to avoid catching and spreading the virus can be found here: NHS Coronavirus Overview