COVID-19: Advice for Employers - Returning to work and Statutory Sick Pay

COVID-19: Advice for Employers - Returning to work and Statutory Sick Pay

04 June 2020 Emily Pope

This article looks at some practical considerations for employers who are looking at bringing employees back into the workplace following COVID-19.

When am I required to pay employees Statutory Sick Pay?

If an employee is to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’), then need to be incapable of doing their contracted work. If an employee is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 then it is likely that this will deem them ‘incapable’ of working and therefore they will be entitled to SSP.

Specific regulations have been introduced regarding COVID-19 related absences and sick pay. These regulations have already changed four times since coming into force in March 2020. It is therefore important that employers take specialist advice to ensure that they are up to date with the latest regulations. As at the date of this article (3rd June 2020) employees are entitled to SSP in the following circumstances:

  • They have symptoms of coronavirus, however mild, and are self-isolating for seven days.
  • They live with someone who is self-isolating and are staying at home for 14 days.
  • They are already self-isolating but subsequently develop the symptoms of coronavirus, and are staying at home for seven days after symptoms began
  • They meet the definition of an ‘extremely vulnerable’ person and at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of an underlying health condition and have been advised by the government that they should be ‘shielding’

What will happen when the Government introduces the new ‘contact tracing’ application?

When the Government introduces its contact tracing application, individuals will receive a notification confirming that they have come into contact with a person who, at the time of the contact, had COVID-19.

Where an employee receives such a notification, they will be entitled to remain at home for 14 days and the Government have confirmed that they would be entitled to SSP.

Is there any support for employers who have had to pay employees SSP for a Covid related absence?

An employer who has had to pay SSP to an employee can reclaim the first 14 days of SSP from the government. This applies to employers with fewer than 250 employees and it only applies to periods of absence which are attributable to COVID-19.

Employers can backdate claims to 14th March 2020.

Can I ask an employee to prove they are suffering from COVID-19?

An employee is entitled to certify their own absence for the first 7 days. After this, employers can request that an employee provides an ‘isolation note’ which they can obtain from the NHS as proof of their ongoing absence.

If an employee refuses to attend work due to fears surrounding COVID-19, what steps can an employer take?

Ideally, employers should still be encouraging employees to work from home where at all possible. Employers should consider the latest government guidance and the reasons why the employee is refusing to attend work. In some circumstances it may be appropriate to refuse home working and, if necessary, take disciplinary action, but employers should be very cautious when doing so as if the decision is not sound, it could result in a claim by an employee. We would advise employers to take specialist advice before taking any such action.

How Neves can help you

Neves’ employment specialists can help you with questions which you may have about your employees. Call us on 0330 0945 500, email info@nevesllp.co.uk or complete our Online Contact Form and we'll get back to you.