I have staff off due to coronavirus (COVID-19), what should I pay and what can I reclaim?

We are receiving an extremely high number of calls in regards to paying employees statutory sick pay if they are off work due to coronavirus. We have put together a summary of information based on the most common questions asked over the last few days.

The guidance is changing on a daily basis and we will update our guidance published to remain in line with new Government guidance.

For the most up to date information and guidance from the Government, please regularly review the Government response page:


Who is entitled to receive SSP?

Employees will be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) if they need to self-isolate due to:

  • Having coronavirus
  • Having symptoms of coronavirus
  • Someone in their household having coronavirus
  • Being advised to self-isolate by a medical professional

If someone is experiencing symptoms, all members of their household must self-isolate for 14 days. Individuals who live alone must self-isolate for 7 days.

How much SSP do I need to pay?

The normal qualifying rules for SSP will apply. An employee will be entitled to SSP if they:

  • Have done some work under their contract
  • Have average weekly earnings of £118 per week (19/20 tax year), increasing to £120 per week from 6 April 2020

The government is legislating for SSP to be paid from day 1, rather than day 4, of your absence from work if you are absent from work due to sickness or need to self-isolate caused by COVID-19. Once the legislation has been passed, this will apply retrospectively from 13 March.

SSP rates are as follows:

  • £94.25 per week for 19/20 tax year
  • £95.85 per week for 20/21 tax year

Please remember that the weekly rate of SSP applies regardless of the number of days an eligible employee works (working days are known as qualifying days). Please review the below to obtain the daily rates of SSP for reference:

Unrounded daily ratesNumber of qualifying days in week1 day to pay2 days to pay3 days to pay4 days to pay5 days to pay6 days to pay7 days to pay

What medical evidence do I need to obtain from my employee?

The Government has previously confirmed that as a temporary measure, employees will not need to provide a fit note in order to receive SSP when self-isolating due to coronavirus.

Those who have COVID-19 or are advised to self-isolate and obtain an “isolation note” by visiting NHS 111 online and completing an online form, rather than visiting a doctor. For COVID-19 cases this replaces the usual need to provide a “fit note” after seven days of sickness absence. Isolation notes will also be accepted by Jobcentre Plus as evidence of your inability to attend.


Reclaiming SSP

The Government are allowing small and medium-sized employers to reclaim SSP paid for sickness due to coronavirus.

  • Employers can reclaim 2 weeks of SSP per employee who has been absent due to coronavirus
  • Employers with 250 employees or less will be able to reclaim SSP – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020

There has been no guidance published in regards to whether employers in a group of companies can reclaim their SSP, or if this is based on a PAYE reference basis. We are advising our clients that it will be in line with small employers’ relief for advanced funding of SMP, and therefore we are advising that this is based on a PAYE reference basis, not on the size of a group of companies.

You will not reclaim SSP through your RTI submissions when processing payroll. The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

Please see the full eligibility criteria as published by GOV.UK here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

If the employers needs to close the workplace

Please refer to the below guidance from ACAS around options for employers relating to lay-offs and short-time working and using holiday pay – https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Lay-offs and short-time working

In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours.

If the employer thinks they’ll need to do this, it’s important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.

Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

Employees who are laid off and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a ‘statutory guarantee payment’ of up to £29 a day from their employer.

This is limited to a maximum of 5 days in any period of 3 months. On days when a guarantee payment is not payable, employees might be able to claim Jobseekers Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.

Using holiday

Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.

If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell the staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take.

For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

This could affect holiday staff has already booked or planned. So employers should:

  • explain clearly why they need to close
  • try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans”


In association with Croner Taxwise

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