James Nadal
2 minutes length
Posted: 10th March 2020

Coronavirus: PM reveals extended Statutory Sick Pay

As the Coronavirus outbreak escalates, sick pay rules are to be changed to help affected workers, the Prime Minister has announced.

With Government estimates that as much as 20% of the workforce could be off sick during the peak of an epidemic, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is quickly becoming an important issue.

In reaction to the spread of the virus, with five UK deaths confirmed and cases of those infected reaching 319 (the latest official figures available from Monday), the Government has, in effect, pledged to pay an extra £40 to those who are in self-isolation to help prevent the virus spreading further.

That’s because instead of having to wait until the fourth day off work to receive SSP, as is standard, those affected will get it from day one.

And there could be even more news in the Budget on this tomorrow, as the BBC reports, with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak telling Andrew Marr on Sunday there would be financial help to people hit by the coronavirus who did not qualify for statutory sick pay, but were being asked to self-isolate.

Updating Parliament on the Government’s response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said as part of emergency legislation measures they would “allow the payment of SSP from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules” because “no one should be penalised for doing the right thing”.

The change will be a “temporary measure to respond to the outbreak and will lapse when it is no longer required”, officials said.

What do you need to know about Statutory Sick Pay?

It’s worth a reminder about what the rules are on SSP. It’s currently £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks.

For someone to qualify, they must be classified as an employee who has done some work for their employer.

At IRIS, we often hear queries such as: “I’ve just hired the employee and they’re now off sick, do I need to pay them?”

The answer is yes, if they have started their employment, it is your legal obligation.

For an employee to be eligible:

  • They must be sick for at least four days in a row, including non-working days
  • They have to earn at least an average of £118 per week
  • They need to inform you that they’re sick

If you have not received a notice of absence or a sick note, you can delay the payment, but you can’t withhold the payment.

If an employee requires another absence within eight weeks of their previous absence, you need to pay them their SSP without waiting for the four-day waiting period as it is technically ‘linked’.

For more on what the Government advises businesses to do about coping with the coronavirus and how to treat employees, see this page.

Are you thinking of outsourcing your payroll responsibilities? Check out our A to Z Guide to Outsourced Payroll here.