In case you missed it, in December the Government introduced a temporary adjustment to the usual rules concerning ‘fit notes’. It has also reintroduced its Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs, to help them fund SSP liabilities relating to COVID-19. We’ve rounded up what you need to know.
Temporary adjustment to ‘fit note’ rules
Typically, in order to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during their absence, you can require a staff member to give you a fit note (ie a doctor or hospital note) after seven days of sickness absence (including non-working days). However, for staff absences starting on or after 10 December 2021 up to and including 26 January 2022, you cannot require your staff member to give you a fit note unless they are off work for 28 days or more.
This temporary adjustment is designed to facilitate the COVID-19 booster programme by GPs.
For further guidance about dealing with staff members who are off sick, including when and how you can ask them for proof, see our Q&A on Dealing with sickness absence.
Re-introduction of the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The Government has re-introduced its Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs, which provides employers with funding to cover COVID-19 related SSP liabilities. The Scheme initially closed on 30 September 2021, and the last day for making claims in relation to periods of staff absence on or before 30 September 2021 was 31 December 2021.
The Scheme has now reopened for claims for periods of staff sickness relating to coronavirus on or after 21 December 2021. We’ve set out below who’s eligible for the Scheme and how it will operate. For more detailed guidance, see our Q&A on Payment during sickness absence.
Which businesses are eligible?
UK based businesses with fewer than 250 employees enrolled in their PAYE payroll scheme as at 30 November 2021 will be eligible for the Scheme provided that the business was not already an undertaking in difficulty on 31 December 2019. For those businesses with connected companies, the total number of employees across all connected companies must have been fewer than 250 as at 30 November 2021.
To make a claim, you must already have made the relevant SSP payments due to your staff.
Which staff will the funding cover?
The Scheme covers staff who are eligible for SSP and who are off work due to COVID-19 (eg because they have symptoms of coronavirus or are self-isolating in accordance with Government guidance). SSP is not payable to staff who are in quarantine or who are self-isolating after having returned to the UK from overseas and who are not able to work as a consequence, unless they are otherwise eligible.
How much funding will my business get?
The funding will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible staff member where their sickness absence relates to COVID-19, starting from the first day of absence. Note that this can be across more than one period of sickness absence, but the total amount claimed must not exceed two weeks per employee.
The current rate of SSP is £96.35 per week. This means that the maximum an employer will be able to claim per eligible staff member is £192.70.
If you pay an enhanced rate of sick pay to your staff, you will not be refunded for any amounts paid over and above the current rate of SSP, although you can still reclaim the SSP element.
How do I make a claim?
Claims can be submitted online using HMRC’s Government Gateway. For guidance about the information you are required to submit with your claim, see our Q&A on Payment during sickness absence. You will also be required to make a declaration that your business was not already an undertaking in difficulty on 31 December 2019, that the matters stated in your claim are true and accurate and that your receipt of the money will not result in the amount of State aid received by your business exceeding the temporary aid amount.
Note that you can claim for more than one member of staff or for multiple periods at the same time.
When will I get reimbursed?
If your claim is approved, you will be paid by bank transfer within six working days.
You must keep records of any claims you make to the Scheme for at least three years from the date you receive your reimbursement. When it reimburses you, HMRC will also send you a letter containing confirmation of your receipt of State aid; you must keep a copy of this letter until at least 31 December 2024.
For further guidance about your record-keeping obligations, see our Q&A on Payment during sickness absence.
Before joining Sparqa Legal as a Senior Legal Editor in 2017, Frankie spent five years training and practising as a corporate disputes and investigations lawyer at leading international law firm Hogan Lovells. As legal insights lead, Frankie regularly contributes to Sparqa Legal’s blog, writing content across employment law, data protection, disputes and more.