Coronavirus guidance for employers and employees – what we know so far
13 March 2020
As the situation relating to coronavirus is constantly and rapidly evolving, and the number of people impacted by the illness is growing, payroll professionals and employees alike have a multitude of questions that they want answers to. The CIPP can’t answer every query at the time of publication, but can provide an overview of what official guidance has been provided so far:
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
This is temporarily payable to eligible individuals from day one of sickness absence, as opposed to from day four, and is applicable where somebody has either been diagnosed with Covid-19 or if they are following government guidance to self-isolate. The individual still needs to be off for a period of four days or more to qualify for the SSP, but it will be paid from day one of absence, and not just from day four.
For businesses employing less than 250 staff (as at 28 February 2020), the cost of providing a maximum of 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full. It is estimated that this will help 2 million businesses, with up to £2 billion set aside to cover the cost of large-scale sick leave.
Contractual sick pay
The CIPP cannot advise how to proceed indefinitely in relation to contractual sick pay and the coronavirus. How contractual sick pay is paid will be dependent on each individual company’s policy, but the ACAS advice is that it would be good practice to pay contractual sick pay if it is offered to employees.
Where an employee has returned from a specific area heavily affected by coronavirus, and so has been advised not to come to work, they should receive their usual pay.
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first seven days of sickness, and individuals can self-certificate up until that point. Ordinarily, beyond day seven of absence, the employer would require some form of fit note issued by a GP or doctor to cover any further period of absence. Employers are being strongly advised to use their discretion around the need for medical evidence in relation to employees who are advised to self-isolate, or who become unwell as a result of Covid-19. At Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, confirmed that people who are advised to self-isolate will be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note, by calling NHS 111 without the need for them to attend an appointment with a doctor, in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Time off for dependents
Employees have an entitlement to take time off work to help someone who depends on them, in an unexpected event or emergency, and this is applicable to the current situation with coronavirus. There’s no statutory right to pay for this period but employees should be able to look after their children or any other dependents if, for example, their school is closed, or they need to go into isolation or hospital.
Support for those ineligible for SSP
Self-employed people and people who earn below the Lower Earning Limit are not entitled to SSP. The government is encouraging these people to make the best use of Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people affected by Covid-19 or in self-isolation following government advice, from the first day of sickness as opposed to the eighth. There will be no requirement to attend job centre appointments for individuals affected by Covid-19 or in self-isolation, in order to claim Universal Credit. Throughout the duration of the outbreak, the minimum floor in Universal Credit will be temporarily relaxed.
The government has also released the following information.
On 11 March 2020,, the Secretary for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, confirmed that emergency legislation would be "set out before the House next week” so we should see a Covid-19 Bill shortly, which will contain further details.
As soon as any further updates become available, the CIPP will update its members via News Online.
Information provided in this news article may be subject to change. Please make note of the date of publication to ensure that you are viewing up to date information. Download the CIPP's Payroll: Need to know - your guide to payroll legislation and reporting for the most up to date data.