Businesses need to prepare for two major changes concerning statutory sick pay (SSP), which took effect on 24 March.
Firstly, SSP will return to pre-pandemic rules whereby it will only be payable from day four of illness, rather than day one. People who are off sick with COVID-19 will still be able to get SSP if they qualify, as it will be treated like any other sickness. Employees are entitled to £96.35 per week SSP if they are too ill to work, paid by their employer for up to 28 weeks.
Employers need to inform their staff of this upcoming change and update their sick policies in accordance. This removal of the day one right to receive SSP for COVID-19 absences may pose some challenges for employers. In England, there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate in positive cases, but employers may still wish to encourage their staff to stay at home in the interest of health and safety. However, when faced with the prospect of three days without pay, employees may be unwilling to disclose their test results. Some employers may want to offer enhanced sick pay to encourage employees to self-isolate instead of relying solely on SSP. A robust self-isolation policy that includes the company’s stance on sick pay is essential.
The second change is to the SSP Rebate Scheme. Currently, employers with fewer than 250 employees can recoup up to two weeks’ SSP for each employee who is off sick with a COVID-19-related absence between 21 December 2021 and 17 March 2022.
This scheme closed on 24 March and employers will have to take on these costs themselves. The rebate scheme has been of particular help to smaller businesses that have faced widespread absences owing to the pandemic. With the legal requirement to self-isolate lifted, it is anticipated that business operations will start to return to normal pre-pandemic levels. But there are question marks for those employers who will still require their staff to isolate in COVID-19-positive cases as they will have to take on the associated costs of SSP from day four of absence. They may even wish to consider offering enhanced sick pay to encourage employees to self-isolate.