‘Tis the season to be cautious… with Christmas and increased socialising with friends and family just around the corner, we are all being advised to do what we can to prevent the spread of Covid-19 over the festive period. As we are all aware by now, the number of Covid-19 cases across the UK is rising significantly by the day due in part to the Omicron variant.
Regulations as they currently stand mean that, if you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to self-isolate if you have been in contact with a positive case, as long as you take a lateral flow test for 7 days, showing a negative result. The full strength of the Omicron variant is not yet know; however, initial reports indicate that those who have been vaccinated can still become infected by this variant, in addition to other variants of Covid-19, Furthermore, those who are unvaccinated will have to isolate for 10 full days if they are contacted by test and trace in any event.
All this means that more employees may well have to self-isolate irrespective of vaccine status and employers should be mindful that they may face another surge in employees being unable to attend work as they are required to self-isolate. With that in mind, employers should ensure that they are continuing to comply with Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’) regulations for self-isolation.
Who is entitled to sick pay?
Any employee who is:
- Off sick or self-isolating for at least 4 days in a row, including non-working days;
- Earns on average at least £120 per week before tax; and
- Has notified their employer within any deadline the employer has set or within 7 days…
Will be entitled to SSP, which is currently paid at a rate of £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks.
An employer does not usually have to pay SSP for the first 3 days of sickness absence, unless an employee is off work because they are self-isolating due to Covid-19. For all other sickness absence, SSP is still to be paid from day 4 onwards.
Employees are not entitled to SSP if they are in self-isolation or quarantine after traveling abroad and they cannot work from home. Although employers can choose to pay them sick pay – at the same rate as SSP or a higher rate – if they want to.
Can Covid related SSP be claimed back?
Employers can no longer claim back any SSP they’ve paid to employees because of Covid-19.
This Scheme ended on 30 September 2021; however if you think you are entitled to claim back any SSP which was paid out before 30 September 2021 you can check here.
Other Guidance for managing Covid-19
Please refer to ACAS Advice for Employers and Employees which is updated daily, and provides good practice steps for employers.
Health-related guidance from the National Health Service is available here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Public Health England including, e.g. specific guidance for employers, educational and health-related organisations, and an option to receive updates directly is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
If you have any queries relating to payment of SSP for Covid-19 related absences or any other Employment Law or HR queries, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment team on 01228 552600 or 01524 548494.