Coronavirus Update

This article was updated on 11th March 2020 to include announcements made in the budget to help businesses deal with the effects of coronavirus. Click here to read the updated information.

There has been an update since this information was published, please click here.

The Prime Minister announced plans earlier today for employees who self-isolate to be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of their absence rather than having to wait until the fourth day.

Employees are entitled to sick pay if they are:

  1. Incapable of work due to illness (most commonly through self-certification or a fit note), or

  2. Are deemed incapable. The coronavirus outbreak has brought to light a relatively unknown regulation concerning SSP in which an individual can be deemed incapable of work by way of a written notice. A notice issued by an employee’s GP or NHS 111 is sufficient for these purposes.

If an employee is advised in writing to self-isolate, the emergency legislation will presumably entitle them to SSP from day one. It is not yet clear whether the usual SSP qualifications will apply or if exceptions will be introduced specifically for Coronavirus. If an employee chooses to self-isolate, perhaps because they have visited a category 2 region but are not displaying symptoms, the right will most likely not activate. However our advice has been for employers to be flexible in these situations and allow the time to be taken either as holiday or on some form of paid leave if possible.

Employers should review their sickness absence processes and procedures and ensure that systems are in place to request the written notification and process SSP for self-isolating staff.

Employers should also note that the definition of ‘employee’ for SSP is slightly broader than normal and includes office holders such as judges, police officers and some company directors. As a general rule, if an employee pays Class 1 NICs, they are probably eligible for SSP.

Update: New coronavirus measures announced in budget

The Chancellor has announced at the start of the 2020 Budget a range of measures designed to assist the economy and British businesses with the financial impact of coronavirus.

SSP reimbursement for coronavirus

The government will reimburse small employers (fewer than 250 employees) any statutory sick pay they pay to employees for the first 14 days of sickness. What is, presumably, a temporary measure seems intended to insulate employers from the financial cost of self-isolation and to encourage businesses to promote self-isolation in the event of outbreak. Rishi Sunak has estimated that this will benefit up to 2 million businesses at a cost of around £2bn.

Budget support for coronavirus affected businesses

Further announcements include a temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme allowing banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support SMEs affected by the virus and a one year suspension on business rates for businesses with a rateable value below £51,000.

Advice for employers on dealing with coronavirus

To read our previous article on Corona virus advice for employers and businesses click here.

We will provide further updates as they occur but if you would like to speak to one of our team about this or any other employment law issue please call 01202 499255 and KatePaul or Chris will be happy to discuss it with you.

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