Coronavirus: three days more sick pay for self-isolating workers

04 March 2020

Prime minister, Boris Johnson has confirmed that individuals who self-isolate to protect others from the coronavirus will not be “penalised for doing the right thing”. Ordinarily, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would only be payable from the fourth day of sickness, but it will temporarily be available from day one of absence.

The emergency legislation will provide individuals with an additional £40 (for a seven-day worker), but concerns have already been raised about those who aren’t currently eligible for SSP, for example, the self-employed or those who are low earners. To receive SSP, individuals must be earning at least £118 a week, which not all workers do. The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week, which will increase to £95.85 for tax year 2020-21. Mr. Johnson said “a great many” people would be entitled to receive sick pay, and further commented:

"Others will be entitled to help through existing systems such as universal credit and we are urgently looking at the application process to reflect on the advice on self-isolation."

The chief medical officer in England confirmed that it was “likely” that the virus will become an epidemic in the UK, and the BBC reported that  Professor Chris Whitty had warned that up to 80% of the population could be infected with coronavirus “in the worst case scenario”.

Please note that there will still need to be a Period of Incapacity for work (PIW), in other words, a period of absence lasting for four days or more. SSP will temporarily be payable from day one of sickness as opposed to day four but there still needs to be an absence extending across four days or more. Absences of three days or less will still not attract SSP payments. The advice is that self-isolation should be practiced for 14 days so employees should be adhering to this.

CIPP comment

The CIPP is eagerly awaiting the publication of the emergency legislation and would like to see information relating to how the new rules will work to answer the questions of those working within the payroll profession. Questions relate to if SSP is payable to people affected by the coronavirus only, or if the temporary changes are applicable to anybody off sick from work? Will the employer be paying the SSP out of their own pocket, or can they reclaim some or all the money back from the government? If so, how will this work through payroll systems? Will the SSP only be payable for periods of 14 days as per self-isolation guidance, or can it be paid out in shorter or longer periods of sickness?

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