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COVID-19 Update: Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme Now Open!

On 3 April 2020, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) published guidance which explained that employers with fewer than 250 employees would be able to reclaim statutory sick pay (SSP) paid in respect of the first 14 days of COVID-19-related sickness absence. This includes cases where the employee has coronavirus, is self-isolating due to the risk of coronavirus, or is shielding because they have been advised that they are at high risk. The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (the Scheme) will repay employers the current rate of SSP paid to current or former employees for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020. As of 6 April 2020, the weekly rate of Statutory Sick Pay is £95.85.

The repayment will cover up to two weeks starting from the first day of sickness, if an employee was unable to work because they either had coronavirus or could not work because they were self-isolating at home. It will also cover those who are/were shielding and have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. For those who are shielding, the claim period begins on 16 April 2020. It should also be noted that on 28 May 2020, entitlement to statutory sick pay was extended, under The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020, to people who have been told to isolate under the new 'Test and Trace' system. This means that a person who has been notified that they have had contact with a person with coronavirus, and who is self-isolating for 14 days as a result, will be entitled to statutory sick pay. Please click here for further information on this.

On Tuesday 26 May 2020, the Scheme opened for claims. The government guidance, which can be accessed here, notes that employers can make a claim online or by alternative means, for example, through an agent. The guidance also lists the information that employers will need to make a claim, namely, the number of employees you are claiming for, the start and end dates of your claim period, the total amount of coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay you have paid to your employees for the claim period, your employer PAYE reference number and your bank or building society account details. Employers can claim for multiple pay periods and employees at the same time. Claims will be checked and, if valid, payment will be made into the employer's account within six working days. Employees do not have to submit fit notes for employers to make a claim.

The Scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including agency and zero-hours contracts. It can be used by employers if they:

  • Are claiming for an employee who is eligible for SSP due to COVID-19.
  • Had a payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020.
  • Had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 across all their PAYE payroll schemes.

Connected companies and charities can also use the scheme if their total combined number of PAYE employees is fewer than 250 on or before 28 February 2020.

HMRC instructs employers to keep records of all SSP payments they want to claim from the Scheme for at least three years following a claim. These records include the dates an employee was off sick, the reason why an employee could not work, the period during which an employee could not work (including start and end dates), details of an employee's SSP qualifying days, and National Insurance numbers of all employees who have been paid SSP.

It is important that employers are aware of their obligations under the Scheme to ensure compliance with the law. Employers who knowingly and deliberately provide false or misleading information to benefit from a claim may be subject to penalties of up to £3,000 for a single offence. A table setting out further details of the penalties can be found here.

If you need advice or have any queries about dealing with SSP issues arising from the COVID-19 outbreak, please contact Paul Chamberlain or another member of the employment team at JMW Solicitors LLP on 0345 646 0342.

This note is for general guidance only and should not be used for any other purpose. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

JMW Solicitors is a Limited Liability Partnership. The copyright in this note is owned by JMW. Any reproduction of this article should be credited to JMW. All rights reserved.