In order to understand how SSP works for Covid 19 it is necessary to differentiate between the advice provided by the statutory body Public Health England (PHE) and that provided by the NHS. ONLY the advice provided by PHE is relevant to SSP.
Who is eligible?
SSP is payable to anyone who has the symptoms of Covid 19, is isolating because they live with someone who has the symptoms of Covid 19 or has been ‘shielded’ by PHE and those people will have received a letter from PHE to that effect. Employers should retain a copy of that letter.
What you need to do
The first 7 days of any Covid 19 absence should be covered by a self certificate. Make sure you keep a copy as you will need it to recoup SSP – the mechanism for recoupment is not yet available. Any absence after 7 days needs a NHS111 isolation certificate which is available to the employee on line. Again, make sure you retain a copy.
For absences relating to Covid19, SSP is payable from Day 1. This only relates to Covid 19 absences. For all other sickness absences, SSP is payable from Day 4 as per usual. When the mechanism becomes available you will be able to recoup 14 days of SSP for each employee off sick because of Covid 19.
How much is SSP?
SSP is currently £94.25 per week but will rise to £95.85 per week on 6th April 2020.
Who isn’t eligible for SSP?
People who self isolate because they believe they are vulnerable but do not have symptoms, do not live with someone who has symptoms or have not received a ‘shielding’ letter are not entitled to SSP.
Anyone who has decided to self isolate but has no symptoms, does not live with anyone who has symptoms or does not have a shielding letter should be available to their employer in the normal way – or whatever passes for normal in the current circumstances. In line with NHS guidance, employers should be implementing home working where that is possible or using the furlough arrangements the government has put in place so there are options you may be able to use.
Effectively, anyone self isolating of their own accord is absent without leave which would normally be a disciplinary matter. I would strongly advise you not to dismiss anyone you believe to be absent without leave because of Covid 19. They may claim unfair dismissal on the basis of health & safety and such a dismissal, if upheld by a Tribunal, is automatically unfair. As an employer you are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of your staff. If you have put in place everything advised by PHE and the NHS and your employee still refuses to participate in work then a written warning or final written warning is most appropriate but please explore all other options first.
If you have a company sick pay arrangement you should first check with your insurer. However, the likelihood is that it only covers ‘sickness’ and will not cover isolation as that is not sickness per se.
Need more advice?
I am available for advice 01428 654990 or 07766 167160.