Sick leave, sick pay and the coronavirus
21 April 2020
There have been a few recent developments regarding sick pay that we wanted to let you know about.
1. Furloughed employees are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
The Government has updated its Statutory Payments Manual to specifically state that employees who have been furloughed will not be entitled to SSP.
This is consistent with the guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which we reported on in our recent FAQ article. An employee can either be on SSP or on furlough, but not both.
What the Government says is that the CJRS is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness (for example, there there is a 3 week minimum period for furlough).
Short term illness (whether Covid-19 related or not) or self-isolation should not be a factor for employers when they decide whether or not to offer furlough to someone.
If someone is either ill or self-isolating due to the coronavirus then the employer is required to pay SSP from day 1 (with no ‘waiting days’) and can claim up to 14 days’ SSP back from the Government.
However, for longer term absences, in a change to the original guidance, employees who are off sick can now potentially be furloughed. Furlough will be a much more favourable option for most employees because they will normally receive more than if they were on SSP.
2. Shielding employees are eligible for SSP
As you are probably aware, ‘shielding’ is the official term the Government uses to refer to steps taken to protect particularly vulnerable people. They have been strongly advised to stay at home at all times and to avoid any face-to-face contact with the outside world. 1.5 million extremely vulnerable people have been sent a letter from the Government advising them of the need for shielding.
Some employees who are required to ‘shield’ will be able to work from home, and obviously if that is the case they will be paid as normal.
If however they are not able to work from home because of the nature of their job, then until the SSP rules changed they had been in somewhat of a grey area. They were usually fit for work, but it was the circumstances of the virus that were preventing them from doing so.
The latest change is that people who are considered ‘extremely vulnerable’ and have been required to shield are now entitled to SSP. This change came into force on 16 April 2020 and importantly, it only applies from that point onwards.
The change will not necessarily mean that employers are obliged to pay company sick pay to people in this situation, though many have already been choosing to do so.
An issue that has cropped up with a number of our clients has been the position regarding people who live in the same household as someone who is extremely vulnerable and who therefore don’t feel able to come to work because of the increased risk to their family member. The change to SSP does not relate to those individuals.
However, as we reported in our FAQ article, employees who are ‘shielding’ (either because they themselves are vulnerable, or because a member of their household is) are eligible to be furloughed. Again, this will usually be a much more favourable option from the employee’s point of view. Also, given that only 14 days’ SSP can be reimbursed, it is likely to be a significantly better option for the employer as well.
If you are an employer dealing with an issue relating to the coronavirus, then we can help. Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected]loymentlaw.co.uk.