Goodbye 2021; Hello 2022! It’s a new year with a clean slate but there’s just one problem – Coronavirus hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s causing as much trouble as it always has. We’re currently riding out the Omicron wave which has seen reported daily cases creep ever closer to 200k and, according to a recent report, 1 in 15 people in England is currently COVID positive. This means there is an awful lot of people self-isolating at home rather than in work.
It’s very likely that you’ve already had staffing issues at your own practice thanks to COVID. We can’t help to rearrange rotas or make sure that your surgeries are fully staffed but, we can help to clarify the rules for those employees that are off sick and how the Government are trying to alleviate some of this financial burden.
The NHS website specifies that an individual should self-isolate straight away and get a PCR test if they have any symptoms of COVID-19. If they subsequently test positive, they will need to continue to self-isolate for a period of 10 days (this may be reduced to 7 days with subsequent testing).
If an individual is not fully vaccinated and they live with someone, or been in contact with someone, who has symptoms or has tested positive, they would need to self-isolate for 10 days. It’s important to note here that fully vaccinated individuals do not need to self-isolate provided they are symptom free.
Statutory sick pay
Employers are legally required to pay an employee if they are too ill to work. The minimum amount payable is known as statutory sick pay (SSP) – currently £96.35 per week.
It’s been widely publicised that SSP is payable from Day 1 for those self-isolating. Whilst this is true, the small print also says that an employee needs to be self-isolating for a minimum of 4 days to be eligible for SSP.
Therefore, if an employee has symptoms but they subsequently test negative, this would be classed as normal sick leave and no statutory sick pay would be payable for the first three days of their leave as these are treated as unpaid waiting days.
If an employee is self-isolating, it’s worthwhile asking for an isolation note which can be generated through the NHS website. This confirms the reason for their self-isolation and the dates of when their isolation period starts and finishes.
It’s worth noting that if an employee is self-isolating but can still fulfil their duties from home, this would not be classed as sick leave and they would be entitled to their normal salary. Similarly, if an employee elects to take annual leave whilst self-isolating, they would be entitled to holiday pay rather than SSP.
Before Christmas, the Government announced the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) whereby employers may be able to reclaim some of the COVID related SSP paid to their employees. The rebate scheme covers up to two weeks of an employee’s sick leave provided it started on or after 21 December.
This is a new iteration of the previous CSSPRS scheme that closed on 30 September 2021. It’s been confirmed that even if you’d made a claim for an employee under the previous scheme, you will be able to make a fresh claim for the same employee under the SSPRS.
The SSPRS is due to be reintroduced in mid-January and the details needed to claim are much the same as before (i.e., number of employees; claim dates; total amount of claim; etc). The guidance stipulates that for each claim, you will need to retain records for three years showing:
- the dates the employee was off sick
- which of those dates were qualifying days
- the reason they said they were off work due to COVID-19
- the employee’s National Insurance number
Given the requirement to keep such records, it’s likely that the isolation notes mentioned above will be an important piece of evidence.
If you’d like further details on the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme or would like some information about our payroll services in general, please call us on 01872 300232 or email [email protected].