Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs Reintroduced

This afternoon, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the immediate reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Scheme for SMEs which previously ended at the end of September 2021.

Rishi Sunak
As part of a series of measures being provided by the UK Government which are intended to support UK companies being impacted by the OMICRON outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Rishi Sunak announced today that the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs will be reintroduced with immediate effect.

Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to claim back up to 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) using the UK Government’s online service from mid-January 2022 but will be eligible to make a claim from now.  Further guidance will be available on the UK Government website as soon as possible.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends)

Different Deemed Incapacity Rules for SSP

The SSP deemed incapacity rules have been extended to cover those who self‑isolate in accordance with government guidelines and those who are shielding in accordance with a notification. SSP can be claimed from the first day of incapacity in respect of absences and online isolation notes can be used by employees to provide evidence to their employers that they have had to self-isolate.

Last week, the UK Government provided new guidance on what will amount to evidence of sickness for SSP purposes where the absence relates to COVID-19 following the introduction of new temporary rules on providing Fit Notes.  See our previous update – New Temporary Rules on Fit Notes and Proof of Illness

Emergency Legislation on Statutory Sick Pay Announced by Prime Minister

Sick Pay From Day One Says Prime Minister

Emergency Legislation on Statutory Sick Pay Announced by Prime Minister

Today during PM’s Questions, the Prime Minister said people who self-isolate are helping to protect others from the virus and should not be “penalised for doing the right thing”.  He went on to say, “I can today announce that the health secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules.  And I think that’s the right way forward. Nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing.”

The aim of this emergency legislation is to ensure people with coronavirus do not feel financial pressure to come into work and risk spreading the disease and should therefore only apply to those who have coronavirus opposed to those who choose to self-isolate as a precaution, but this is still unclear.   

Although the full details of the emergency legislation and the changes have not yet been revealed, these will no doubt follow in the coming days but we understand at this stage that the change will only be temporary during the period of the coronavirus outbreak, but in the meantime it may effectively apply to all illnesses.  

Quite obviously there will be immediate implications for Employers, not least an increase in sick pay costs (employers have been unable to reclaim SSP since April 2014 when the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) was scrapped) but there are potential future implications too.  There is every likelihood that unions will argue these new rules should apply to all illnesses, all the time, not just because of the coronavirus outbreak and it could lead to renewed calls for a full review of the current SSP scheme which unions have often said doesn’t protect workers who don’t earn enough to qualify for SSP and doesn’t pay enough for those that do.  

This was evidenced in comments made by Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC following today’s government announcement when she said it was ““an important step but not enough.”  She went on to say, “Two million workers still don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. They can’t afford not to work. And statutory sick pay still isn’t enough to live on.”

Today in the UK we have seen the biggest day-on-day increase in coronavirus cases, bringing the total number to 87 and all indications are these numbers will continue to rise putting more pressure on businesses across the UK, and beyond.

For more information about the implications for employers, check out our article – Coronavirus – Employment Law and HR Implications for Employers.

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Additional Advice and Support

If you are an employer who requires assistance with any of the issues raised here, call us now on 0800 612 4772 or Contact us via our website.   

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