Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provides financial support to an employee when they are off work sick. Those on low pay may be able to receive additional help through the welfare system, depending on their personal circumstances. You may be aware that my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions have run a consultation containing a number of proposals aiming to reduce ill health-related job loss and support disabled people and those with health conditions to stay in and thrive in work. This includes proposals to reform SSP. A response to the consultation will be published in due course and I look forward to reading this. I would add that SSP is the legal minimum and many employees do receive more than this.
SSP is now payable from the first day of sickness absence (as opposed to day four) where an individual is sick, self-isolating or shielding due to COVID-19. Eligibility has also been extended to those told to self-isolate due to a member of a household (including linked or extended household) displaying symptoms, or testing positive for COVID-19, having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or before being admitted to hospital prior to planned or elective surgery. These measures are in place to ensure that everyone is supported to do the right thing.
It is important to add that SSP is only one form of the wider support offer to support people in times of need. Where an employee’s income is reduced while off sick and they require further financial support, they may be able to claim Universal Credit, as well as the new style Employment and Support Allowance
HMRC has built the system for repayment so that employers have been able to make their rebate claims through a new online service, which is available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19.
As increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases means more workers taking time off work, I welcome that the Government is reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS).
The SSPRS is help for small and medium-sized employers – those with fewer than 250 employees – by reimbursing them for the cost of Statutory Sick Pay for COVID-related absences, for up to 2 weeks per employee. Firms will be eligible for the scheme from 21st December 2021 and are able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January 2022.
I also welcome Mind's important campaign on reforming SSP. As I mentioned, DWP ministers are exploring reforms to ensure SSP supports employees who need it. Proposals include allowing the system to better accommodate phased returns, widening eligibility for SSP to those on the lowest incomes, and introducing measures to increase compliance. I eagerly await the Government’s response.
I wish all those who have contracted COVID-19 a speedy recovery and pay tribute to NHS staff who have worked tirelessly to save lives during this difficult time. As you may be aware, roughly 1 in every 10 people suffer the symptoms of COVID-19 longer than the average 2 weeks. SSP exists to provide support for employees unable to work because of illnesses such as COVID-19 and their longer-term effects.
Finally, I am aware that a number of private employers have taken the decision to withhold SSP. This is ultimately a matter for individual employers and employees and will depend on the context in which staff operate.