Coronavirus and changes to sick pay – what do they mean for employers?

On the 4th March 2020, Boris Johnson announced an emergency law to widen statutory sick pay (SSP), meaning it will start being paid from day one, not after four days of sickness, but what does this mean for employers?

There will still need to be a Period of Incapacity for work (PIW), a period of absence lasting for four days or more. SSP will temporarily be payable from day one of sickness as opposed to day four, but there still needs to be an absence extending across four days or more. Absences of three days or less will still not attract SSP payments. The advice is that self-isolation should be practiced for 14 days so employees should be adhering to this.

No need to panic…

Firstly, we’re not at the point yet where as a county we are asking large numbers of people to self-isolate, but that of course may change if large numbers of people have the symptoms of Coronavirus. Self-isolation will occur if a person has travelled to an affected area, been in close contact with an infected person or waiting for a COVID-19 test result.

Self-isolation is about protecting others and slowing down the spread of COVID-19. It is very important that anyone who has the virus, or might have been exposed to it, limits the number of people they come into contact with for 14 days. This is the most effective way of preventing the coronavirus from spreading.

If an employee has been told to self-isolate, in practical terms, this means that once they reach their residence they must:

  • stay at home
  • not go to work, school or public areas
  • not use public transport like buses, trains, tubes or taxis
  • avoid visitors to their home
  • ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands  – such as getting groceries, medications or other shopping

An employee will be entitled to SSP at a rate of £94.25 per week, which will increase to £95.85 for tax year 2020-21, from day one of self-isolation, as long as they earn £118 (LEL) per week or over. This currently does not apply to self-employed individuals – though discussions around this are ongoing within government.

Consider changes to policy

Employers might have to alter their policies to get a fit note if the employee has to self-isolate, as they’ll be unable to submit it themselves. Employers may have to create or adjust a working from home policy, focusing on working hours, legal rights and data protection.

In the event that an employee’s child has been told to self-isolate or their school has closed, employers should make arrangements for them to have a reasonable amount of time off. However, as they are not ill, they are not entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP).

In cases where an employee refuses to come into work because of Coronavirus concerns, they are not entitled to SSP. If their worries are unfounded (i.e. you’re not in a vulnerable area) and there is strong evidence to prove that they’re just trying to get out of coming to work.

Some employers may want to keep staff away from the workplace if they’ve recently travelled to a risky area, even if they show no symptoms. If the employer is the one telling the employee to stay away, the employer is still obligated to pay them their normal salary at this time and not SSP. If the employee can work from home, this is the best option.

Other advice would be, while you’re in the workplace, supply hand sanitiser for staff and advise them to partake in good hygiene practices.

If you have any further queries on the new law for statutory sick pay, please contact us and one of our staff will be able to help you with your queries.

For further guidance on SSP from day one, please follow Government advice: https://tinyurl.com/rto85gh