Coronavirus and Sick Pay
As new variants of the coronavirus are emerging and the pandemic continues, employees will continue to take sick leave due to testing positive for the coronavirus and/or being required to self-isolate.
What is the Statutory Sick Pay Scheme?
The requirement for employers to pay employees statutory sick pay is set out in the Statutory Sick Pay Regulations 1992.
Employees are eligible for statutory sick pay if they are:
- Classed as an employee and have done some work for the employer;
- Earn an average of at least £120 per week; and
- Have been off work due to ill health for four or more days.
Statutory sick pay is payable for up to 28 weeks and the current weekly rate for statutory sick pay is £95.85.
The first three days of any sickness period are known as ‘qualifying days’ and are unpaid.
How have the Statutory Sick Pay Regulations been amended?
The pandemic has meant that employees have been absent from work due to testing positive for the coronavirus and the requirement to self-isolate.
The Statutory Sick Pay Regulations were amended in 2020 to address the need for employees to take time off due to the pandemic and provided that statutory sick pay should also be paid to the following employees:
- Employees that are shielding and unable to attend work or work from home (employees who are shielding may be placed on furlough instead);
- Employees that are self-isolating for one of the following reasons:
- Experiencing symptoms of coronavirus;
- Living with someone who is isolating because they have coronavirus symptoms;
- Someone in the employee’s support bubble has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus;
- Been advised through test and trace that they have come into contact with someone who was infected with the coronavirus and that they are required to self-isolate.
- Tested positive for coronavirus.
- They have been advised to self-isolate at home for a period of 14 days before their admission date to hospital for surgery.
Currently, the symptoms include a continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of or change in an individual’s normal sense of taste or smell.
Statutory sick pay will only be payable in the above circumstances if the employee has self-isolated or been absent for at least four days. If an employee self-isolates for three days and then tests negative and can return to work, they will not be entitled to any statutory sick pay. However, if the employee is absent from work for four or more days, they will be entitled to statutory sick pay from day one.
Employers are entitled to ask employees for proof of the employees’ absence if they are absent for more than seven days. If the employee is isolating, the employee should provide you with either:
- an ‘isolation note’ which they can obtain online from NHS 111,
- a copy of the letter from the doctor confirming they are about to have hospital treatment and need to self-isolate, or
- notification from the test and trace system stating that they are required to self-isolate.
Employees will not be entitled to statutory sick pay if they are simply self-isolating due to entering or returning to the UK.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The Government acknowledged that absences due to the coronavirus could cause financial hardship to both employees and employers and created the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. Under the scheme employers can claim up to two weeks of statutory sick pay. Gov.uk sets out that employers can claim from the scheme if:
- they have already paid the employee’s sick pay;
- they are claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus;
- they have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020;
- they had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 across all of their PAYE payroll scheme.
Employers must keep the records for three years after the date that they receive payment for the claim.
If you have any queries regarding employees and the coronavirus please contact a member of our Employment team.