Where someone is unable to work due to having to self-isolate or shield then they may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay.
We have detailed below the changes that the government has made to the scheme due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
NOTE: Employers may be able to agree a period of homeworking during self-isolation or shielding, provided the employee remains fit for work, or annual leave, in which case full pay will be maintained.
'Waiting days' removed
Normally when an employee is off work sick they can self-certify for the first seven days and receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), if entitled, from day four of their sickness.
On 4th March the government announced that those employees who are self-isolating due to the Coronavirus will have SSP paid from day one of their sickness/absence. Note: removing the ‘waiting days’ is a temporary measure.
NOTE: If someone is off sick for any other reason, standard rules apply and Statutory Sick Pay will kick in from day four, not day one.
Regulations that took effect on 16th March state that anyone who is isolating themselves from others in accordance with advice from Public Health England, NHS Scotland or Public Health Wales on Coronavirus disease is deemed to be incapable of work for the purposes of claiming Statutory Sick Pay.
The government has urged employers to use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.
Measures have also been put in place for employees to obtain medical evidence from NHS 111 rather than their own GP. “Isolation notes” will provide them with the evidence that their employer needs to be able to pay Statutory Sick Pay (assuming the worker meets the qualifying criteria).
People who have existing health conditions which put them at a high risk of complications from the Coronavirus and who have been advised to shield have also been added as a new category of people who are deemed to be incapable of work for the purposes of qualifying for SSP. Amendment regulations are in force from 16 April 2020.
Impact on Benefits
Already on Universal Credit
Statutory Sick Pay is treated as earnings. The DWP will automatically be informed of any SSP received by the employee in an Assessment Period and the claimant’s award adjusted accordingly. Where they have been required by law to self-isolate, or are being treated as having a Limited Capability for Work (see below) they may be entitled to a work allowance.
Not on Universal Credit
Not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?
Those not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay may be able to make a claim for New-Style Employment and Support Allowance and / or Universal Credit – but not everyone.
On 4th March, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister said that:
‘….we want to do everything we can to avoid penalising those who are doing the right thing.’
There have been calls to extend Statutory Sick Pay to those currently not entitled - ie self-employed and low paid workers. But there was no mention of this in the Budget 2020 statement - instead it talks about low paid earners and self-employed people being able to claim New-Style Employment and Support Allowance and/ or Universal Credit, and there is also mention of a Hardship Fund to help those struggling to pay their Council Tax Bill.
This would mean that the claimant will be moved from the 'all work requirements group' to the 'work focused interview and work preparation only' group ie they will not be required to be available for or seeking work. But they will need to stay in contact with their work coach and may be required to undertake some work related activities.