On 15 May 2020, HMRC released updated guidance about claiming back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus.  The scheme will be known as the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (CSSPRS).

The Legislation

There are two pieces of legislation:

  1. The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) Regulations 2020
  2. The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020

Both come into force on 26 May 2020.

What can be claimed?

The CSSPRS is designed to repay employers the value of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid to current or previous employees from the first Qualifying Day, i.e. no Waiting Days will apply for sicknesses / isolations / shielding as follows:

  • The first 2 weeks starting on or after 13 March 2020 where there is COVID-19 sickness or self-isolation as a result of living with someone with symptoms
  • The first 2 weeks starting on or after 16 April 2020 where they are shielding in accordance with public health advice and have a letter from the NHS or GP

The maximum claim per employee is £191.70.  This is 2 weeks at the current rate of SSP (£95.85 per week).

Who Can Claim?

To be an eligible employer for the reclaim, both the guidance and the legislation confirm that an employer has to meet the below criterion:

  • On 28th February 2020 there were fewer than 250 employees enrolled in all PAYE schemes operated by the employer. This means connection rules apply, as they do for Employment Allowance eligibility
  • On 31 December 2019, the employer was not ‘in difficulty’
‘In Difficulty’

This is more new terminology that requires a brief explanation.

The legislation says that an employer is not an eligible one for SSP reclaim if they were ‘in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019.  The reason for this phrase is that it relates to the European Union’s Temporary State Aid Framework that describes ‘undertakings in difficulty’ as not being eligible (Article 2 (18)).

The CSSPRS is being operated under this Temporary EU Framework and companies in difficulty (insolvency, receiving rescue aid etc) are not entitled to this form of State Aid.  If they do receive it, there is the risk that the employer will exceed the maximum temporary State Aid payable.  This varies by industry sector and the EU’s support scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) quotes the maximums as:

  • €800,000
  • €120,000 (aquaculture and fisheries) and
  • €100,000 (agriculture)
How to Claim

The section starts with the clear statement that the online service to make the reclaim is not available at the moment.  However, there are some things that employers can do to put themselves in a position to be able to claim.

The online service will be accessed via a Government Gateway user ID.  This would have been used at the time an employer registered for PAYE Online:

  • If the employer did not register, they can enrol
  • If they have lost their Government Gateway user ID they can access the ‘How to find your user ID’ service
Alternatively

However, HMRC’s guidance does say that an alternative way will be available.  The legislation prescribes that this will be available for an employer who considers they are ‘digitally excluded’ and makes a request to HMRC to claim in an alternative manner. An employer is digitally excluded if it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to use the Government Gateway (age, disability, remoteness or where they are a member of a religious society whose beliefs are incompatible with the Gateway).

What Employers Need

Regardless of how the claim is to be made, employers will need to be prepared with the following information:

  • The employer PAYE scheme reference number
  • A contact name and telephone phone number (in the event of queries)
  • UK bank or building society details (where a Bacs payment can be accepted)
  • The total amount of coronavirus SSP paid for the claim period
  • The number of employees being claimed for
  • The start date and end date of the claim period

Claims can be made for multiple pay periods and employees at the same time:

  • The start date of the claim is the start date of the earliest pay period being claimed for
  • The end date of the claim is the end date of the most recent pay period being claimed for

Legislation says that employers must repay HMRC any overstated claims and adjust a subsequent claim through the portal.  Where there is no subsequent claim to make, an ‘adjustment notice’ must be sent to HMRC.

Declarations

The claim must also include the following declarations:

  • A declaration that the employer was not already in difficulty on 31st December 2019
  • A declaration confirming that the amount claimed will not result in the amount of State aid received by the employer exceeding the maximum temporary aid amount for that employer
  • A declaration that the information stated in the claim are true and accurate
Records to Keep

This is vital for employers and it is worth drawing your attention to this line in the guidance:

You can choose how you keep records of your employees’ sickness absence. HMRC may need to see these records if there’s a dispute over payment of SSP.

The following information should be kept:

  • The dates the employee was off sick
  • Which of those dates were qualifying days
  • The reason they said they were off work – i.e. if they were sick with COVID-19, if they were self-isolating because they lived with someone who had symptoms or they were shielding
  • The employee’s National Insurance Number

These records need to be kept for 3 years after the date that the CSSPRS repayment is received.

Time Limit

There is a one-year time limit on claims beginning with the later of:

  • 26 May 2020 or
  • The last Qualifying Day in the ‘COVID-19 SSP’ Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW)
Employer Action

Employers are advised to gather the above information so that a claim can be made as soon as the online portal opens (on 26 May 2020).  Given that the legislation does not come into force until 26 May 2020, there is a week or so to be able to do this.

There are two points worth noting from the guidance:

  1. You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time for that employee
  2. Your claim amount should not take you above the state aid limits under the EU Commission temporary framework

This is another thing for payroll professionals and agents to cope with.

 

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