Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay rebate scheme is now live


Back in March the Prime Minister announced changes to statutory sick pay (SSP) to assist with additional issues arising from COVID-19 as follows:

  • COVID-19 related SSP will be payable from the first qualifying day as opposed to after three waiting days. However, a three-day wait is still necessary for employees who are absent due to illnesses unrelated to COVID-19.  
  • Employers with less than 250 employees can recover any SSP paid to employees for COVID related sick leave.

Legislation

There has been lots of SSP legislation announced since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, which has mainly concerned the eligibility for paying SSP when individuals are self-isolating or shielding. It was announced on 19 May 2020 that that the reclaim scheme will be called the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (CSSPRS) along with guidance published. 
 
The two further pieces of legislation that came into force on 26 May 2020, the same day that the SSP reclaims portal opened, that should be referred to include:
  • The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) Regulations 2020
  • The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020

Who is eligible?

An employer must have had less than 250 employees on 28 February 2020. This applies to all PAYE schemes operated, so any connected employers must be considered as is done for the employment allowance. The employer must also not have been ‘in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019.
 
The definition of ‘in difficulty’ for this purpose has been widely communicated, for example in this press release from the EU Commission on the guidelines on the agreed UK state aid support scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
 
This reference to EU law is due to the fact that the CSSPRS is being operated under the temporary EU framework granting state aid to SMEs. The amount of state aid received across all support schemes must not exceed the following limits for these sectors:
  • €120,000 – aquaculture and fisheries
  • €100,000 – agriculture
  • €800,000 – anything else

What periods do claims cover?

An SSP rebate can be claimed by eligible employers for the first 14 days per employee if they are absent due to COVID-19 related sickness or self-isolation starting on or after 13 March 2020. Claims also cover those absent due to COVID-19 related shielding, following public health advice and when an employee has received a letter from their GP or the NHS, for periods starting on and after 16 April 2020.
 

How are claims made?

The online reclaims portal opened on 26 May 2020 and can be accessed via a government gateway user ID, in the same way as the CJRS. Tax agents can also make claims on behalf of their clients. 
Information and declarations required
 
HMRC’s guidance suggests that the following information is required:
  • The employer’s PAYE reference number
  • A contact name and phone number
  • Account details of a UK bank or building society for Bacs payments
  • The amount of COVID-19 related SSP paid for the claim period
  • The number of employees included in the claim
  • The start and end date of the claim period
Claims can cover multiple employees and there is nothing to suggest that each employee needs to be identified individually through their NI number.
 
The following declarations will also need to be made as per government guidance:
  • A declaration that the employer was not in difficulty on 31 December 2019
  • A declaration confirming that the amount claimed will not result in the amount of state aid received making them exceed the cap allowed for their sector
  • A declaration that the information stated in the claim is true and accurate

Important considerations

We urge that employers read the HMRC guidance in full for HMRC’s interpretation of the legislation. Particularly the areas that discuss the records that must be kept and the time limits for claims. 
 
The danger of double claims should also be considered as you cannot claim through the coronavirus job retention scheme and the coronavirus statutory sick pay rebate scheme for the same time period for each individual employee.
 
Please note that claims may be at different rates as the SSP rate changed on 6 April 2020, from £94.25 to £95.85 per week. The 28-week maximum SSP rule also remains in place for any period of incapacity for work (PIW) or series of linked PIWs.
 
For further information, contact Owen Kyffin on 01295 270200 or email: Owenk@whitleystimpson.co.uk