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28 May 2020

Do employers need to pay someone who is off work because of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

The answer is – it depends.

Off Work for Covid-19 related illness, Self-Isolation or Shielding:

The Government advice is that where employees are self-isolating because they or someone else in the household is sick, they will be eligible for SSP.  SSP will be also available for those eligible individuals who have been diagnosed with coronavirus or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice and those who have been advised to practice shielding or protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19) - although you can also furlough people who are shielding in line with Government advice.

Those self-isolating because they are symptomatic should receive either Statutory or Contractual Sick Pay - whichever is applicable to your workplace.  The weekly allowance for SSP increased from £94.25 to £95.85 on 6 April.  SSP is payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals.  Up to day 7 the employee can self-certify however the Government have made an isolation note available via the NHS 111 website.  This works for those self-isolating for between 7 to 14 days.  Employers need to show common sense and patience for sickness absences of more than 14 days as the employee may find it more difficult or have delays in obtaining a GP fit note. 

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of SSP that they pay to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.  If you’re an employer who pays more than the current rate of SSP you can only claim the current rate amount.  The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks starting from the first day of sickness.

If you are an employer with less than 250 staff you will be able to claim back up to 2 weeks SSP costs from the Government and the online scheme to claim back is now available.  You can find details of the eligibility criteria, how much you can claim via this link and further details and the link to the claims page here.  

It is essential you are maintaining suitable records of staff absences and payments of SSP.  You must keep records of all the statutory sick payments that you want to claim from HMRC, including:

You’ll have to keep these records for at least 3 years following your claim.  See the Government guidance for full details. 

The Government have published this table to help us understand their isolation guidelines.  Once you have got your head round it, it might be quite useful.  Get in touch with Embrace HR if you still have queries.  Remember there are restrictions around who can reclaim SSP payments and for how long.


Not sick or Self Isolating: 

The above scenarios are different to where someone is worried about coming into work but haven't been in close contact with someone with symptoms – employers should be sympathetic to people’s anxieties around this, but if there is work for them and they can’t work from home but are refusing to come in, this would typically be unpaid.


Furlough pay

And finally, there is furlough pay - that needs its own section so see our other pages for more details.


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