Budget 2020 on 11 March 2020 contained the following comment in the Red Book on page 38 (point 1.94).

This is following the announcement that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would be payable from day one when self-isolating rather than after the Waiting Days:

The government will temporarily extend SSP to cover:

  • individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate
  • people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate
Legislation

On 12 March 2020, the UK Government rushed through emergency legislation in the form of The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020.  These came into force on the following day (13 March 2020).

This piece of secondary legislation does one thing.

It amends the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 and means that someone who is self-isolating on or after 13 March 2020 is entitled to be classed as sick for the purposes of being entitled to SSP. This is as long as they are self-isolating because of possible infection or contamination with coronavirus disease COVID-19.  Plus, this self-isolation must be in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales.

What these Regs do not do is extend SSP entitlement to individuals who are looking after a person in the same household that has been told to self-isolate.  Until another piece of legislation is rushed through, these people are NOT entitled to SSP.

This legislation does not fulfil the commitment to extend SSP entitlement to people caring for those who are self-isolating.

Further, the Regs say nothing about entitlement from day 1.

I do have questions about whether this legislation was necessary in the first place.  The existing legislation (the 1982 Regulations in Great Britain and Northern Ireland (as amended by 2006 Regulations) already state that a reason for sickness (SSP) eligibility is that the absence is for ‘precautionary or convalescent reasons’.  This is confirmed in HMRC’s interpretation within the Statutory Payments Manual which says the first condition of eligibility is that:

‘they must be unfit for work under their contract of employment due to physical or mental incapacity, or have been advised to refrain from work for precautionary or convalescent reasons. Or be a carrier of or have been in contact with an infectious or contagious disease and been issued with a statement from the appropriate medical officer advising them not to go to work’

Regardless, this legislation has come into force from 13 March 2020.

It does not apply UK-wide and only extends to Great Britainhere are a few other points to note, even if this legislation is necessary:

  • It does not fulfil the other commitment that SSP would be refunded to employers for the first 14 days where the employer has fewer than 250 employees
Software

So, the UK Government says (or has already said!) that self-isolation is a valid eligibility condition for SSP.  They have also said that it can be paid from day one (starting 13 March 2020) and that some employers would be able to get support – legislation awaited in this regard.

The main consideration for employers is whether the software will be able to do this.  Indeed, whether HMRC’s own SSP calculator will be able to do this.

The answer is NO.  Payroll software has not been instructed to change and HMRC’s calculator has not changed.

Please look out for more emergency legislation, as these 2020 Regs only form a very small part of the picture.  Also look out for initiatives on how the UK Government plans to deliver this initiative to employers.  It’s a shame for employers and individuals that all pieces of the emergency legislation puzzle weren’t put together beforehand.

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