SSP and coronavirus

In response to COVID-19, certain changes have been made to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules.

In summary, SSP can be paid from the first day of sickness absence (rather than the fourth), the definition of ‘incapacity’ has been widened, and the costs of SSP will be refunded to SME employers.

Refunding SSP

To support employers the government will refund eligible SSP costs with the criteria being as follows:

  • the refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible
  • the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note

The period of sickness must have started on or after:

  • 13 March 2020 if the employee had COVID-19 or was self-isolating because of COVID-19
  • 16 April 2020 if the employee was shielding because of COVID-19

An employer can only reclaim a maximum of £95.85 per week.

The mechanics of the scheme are set out in the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers' Liabilities) Regulations 2020 and the online portal for recovery launched on 26 May 2020.

See here for a YouTube video about the SSP rebate scheme.

Employees do not qualify for SSP if they are on furlough as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. In addition, the self-employed and those earning less than the lower earnings limit remain ineligible for SSP. To support these groups:

  • Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day.
  • People can claim Universal Credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by COVID-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre.
  • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit have been temporarily relaxed for those directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice.

1st day payment

Pre-COVID-19, normal entitlement to SSP did not normally begin until an employee had been off work due to incapacity for three days; day 4 is when eligibility kicked in.

This waiting day rule has now been temporarily suspended and SSP can be claimed from Day 1.

Also, there is a temporary amendment to the medical evidence/fit note rules for the duration of the outbreak - those advised to self-isolate can obtain a notification via NHS 111 (rather than from a GP) which they can use as evidence for absence from work.

Definition of incapacity

The SSP rules require that an employee be absent from work due to incapacity. This has been expanded so that, for the first time, SSP can be paid to those who are not themselves ill. The expansion covers those who are incapable of work because:

  1. they have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, and are staying at home for seven days, beginning with the day of which the symptoms started
  2. they have been instructed to self-isolate for 14 days in accordance with the test and trace scheme
  3. they live with someone who is self-isolating (as per 1) and are staying at home for 14 days
  4. they are already self-isolating (as per 2), develop the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, and are staying at home for seven days
  5. they are defined in public health guidance as extremely vulnerable and at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of an underlying health condition, or
  6. they have been advised by a notification that, in accordance with that guidance, they need to follow rigorously shielding measures for the period specified in the notification