One of the most direct fallouts from COVID-19 in the UK is its impact on sick pay legislation. Not only have our views on how we handle sick leave changed enormously, but the law around taking time off for sickness and statutory sick pay (SSP) has evolved, too. But as the end of all social distancing and testing requirements is in sight, temporary changes to SSP regulations are evolving once again, and employers need to be ready.

As an employer, are you aware of what’s changing and when? Have you got the mechanisms in place to ensure the transition back to normal SSP is a slick one? The return to pre-pandemic legislation places more responsibility on employers, so it’s vital to stay informed to remain compliant and ensure your employees feel cared for.

Coming full circle

The minimum weekly payment for SSP is £96.35, which employers must pay to employees who are too ill to work. At the beginning of the pandemic, SSP regulations were amended under the Coronavirus Act 2020 so that SSP was payable from day one of sickness if the absence was related to COVID-19.

However, as this amendment contains an expiry date, 25 March 2022 will mark the return to the pre-pandemic legislation unless the government intervenes beforehand. If not, from 25 March, SSP only becomes payable from the fourth qualifying day that an employee is unwell (including any usual non-working days) — whether they’re unable to work due to COVID-related reasons or otherwise. This means that anyone sick with COVID-19 can only claim SSP from day four of absence.

Additionally, if an employee has been in contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating, they’ll also no longer be entitled to SSP from 24 March.

The SSP rebate scheme is also due to end on 17 March, but claims can be submitted until 24 March 2022. This scheme enables some employers to reclaim up to two weeks’ SSP if an employee has been absent from work due to COVID-19.

The return to pre-pandemic SSP rules means employers are responsible for how they manage COVID-19 absences in the workplace and should have a structure in place to deal with individual concerns for any vulnerable staff or those with high-risk family members.

Taking responsibility

Worldwide perspectives on sickness in the workplace have changed drastically over the past two years, and employers need to decide how best to navigate the new landscape with their employees. Should symptomatic workers come into the office (even if it’s ‘just a cold’)? When will your business’ sick pay become payable? In which circumstances should you ask your employees to work from home or the office?

Now more than ever, it’s up to employers to ensure they’re offering a safe workplace for their employees. Although the government has lifted most restrictions and employees could legally come to work even if they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, each business has to think about the consequences and do what’s right for their employees.

Risk assessments and regular check-ins with your employees are paramount if you intend to make any changes to the circumstances under which you require your staff to come into the office.

And although the requirement for one-day access to SSP is being lifted, employers can continue offering it to their employees if they wish. In fact, doing so could help to prevent employees from coming into the office when they’re feeling under the weather and risk spreading the illness. (And remember: you can’t pay workers less than SSP, but you’re perfectly entitled to offer company sick pay that’s higher than the £96.35 minimum!).

Supporting you through change

As well as the ethical considerations that arise from the upcoming changes to statutory sick pay, employers must ensure their payroll software is up to date to follow the updated regulations.

Employers should consider any changes made to their payroll software that allowed for the three ‘waiting days’ that were suspended during the pandemic, as these changes will have to be revoked. You’ll also have to communicate to your employees that anyone wishing to claim COVID-related SSP from 25 March 2022 will only be paid from the fourth qualifying day rather than day one.

Proper employee management around health-related issues is complex. With the constant introduction of new rules to follow as well as a whole workforce to keep safe and different systems to update, staying on top of it all can feel overwhelming.

So, what if you could outsource it all to a payroll service provider that’ll handle everything for you? Payroll outsourcing services from a provider like TopSource Worldwide ensure every aspect of your UK payroll is managed seamlessly. Our experts guarantee that your business never misses an amendment to payroll legislation to keep you on the right side of compliance, as well as managing your employees’ sick leave and SSP.

What’s more, when you work with TopSource Worldwide, you gain access to our cloud-based platform, Portico. Portico presents a secure and flexible way to store and track your HR and payroll data in line with all UK data protection regulations and payroll legislation — as well as to give your employees total visibility over and access to their payroll details.

Want to remove the headache of ever-changing UK payroll legislation? Get in touch to find out more about our fully managed payroll service.

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Published On: March 16th, 2022Last Updated: March 16th, 2022

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About the Author: Paul Sleath

Paul is responsible for global marketing and communications including brand, advertising, digital marketing, and demand generation. Paul has a wealth of experience previously co-founding PEO Worldwide and was also the former managing director of CPM People/Stipenda.