Thursday, 12 March 2020

Campaign reply - Please help get Sick Pay For All in the budget

Several constituents have sent me a copy of a campaign email regarding sick pay and the outbreak of Covid-19 or Corona Virus .

The Chancellor has announced measures in his budget to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak. These include help and support for:

  • Public services
  • Individuals
  • Businesses

The very significant sum of £12 billion has been allocated for these measures. Wider policy decisions to support the economy  will total £18 billion.

The Prime Minister has already said that statutory sick pay will be paid from day one for those suffering from Coronavirus. The budget has now set out further measures to widen the scope.

The budget document “Redbook” published following the Chancellors statement in the House on Wednesday 11 March, sets out the extensive measures the government will take including the following section:

The Budget announces measures to support people who are unable to work because of COVID-19.
Eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – The Prime Minister has already announced that the forthcoming COVID-19 Bill will temporarily allow SSP to be paid from the first day
of sickness absence, rather than the fourth day, for people who have COVID-19 or have to self-isolate, in accordance with government guidelines. The Budget sets out a further package to widen the scope of SSP and make it more accessible. The government will temporarily extend
SSP to cover:
• individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate
• people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and
have been told to self-isolate
Medical Evidence for SSP – The government has already issued guidance to employers,
advising them to use their discretion not to require a GP fit note for COVID-19 related absences.
This Budget announces that the government and the NHS will bring forward a temporary alternative to the fit note in the coming weeks which can be used for the duration of the
COVID-19 outbreak. This system will enable people who are advised to self-isolate to obtain a notification via NHS111 which they can use as evidence for absence from work, where necessary.
This notification would meet employers’ need for evidence, whilst taking pressure away from General Practices.

Support for those ineligible for SSP – The government recognises that self-employed people and employees below the Lower Earnings Limit are not entitled to SSP. The best system of financial support for these people is the welfare system and, in particular, ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit. The government is committed to supporting these groups, and the Budget announces further support by making it quicker and
easier to receive benefits:
• ‘New style’ Employment and Support Allowance will be payable for people directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating according to government advice for from the first day of sickness, rather than the eighth day
• people will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments where they are directly affected by COVID-19 (or self-isolating), without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre
• for the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit will be temporarily relaxed for those directly affected by COVID-19 or
self-isolating according to government advice for duration of the outbreak, ensuring self-employed claimants will be compensated for losses in income

Hardship Fund – The government will provide Local Authorities in England with £500 million of new grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households
in their local area. The government expects most of this funding to be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through complementary reliefs.
Support for businesses

Some businesses may experience increased costs or disruptions to their cash flow as a result of COVID-19. The Budget announces a set of measures to provide support to businesses during this temporary period by either reducing their costs or bridging cashflow problems arising from the outbreak, and to protect people’s jobs.

Statutory Sick Pay – The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs. The eligibility criteria for the scheme are as follows:
• this refund will be limited to two weeks per employee
• employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible. The size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
• employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP
(according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
• employers should maintain records of staff absences, but should not require employees to provide a GP fit note
• the eligible period for the scheme will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force
• while existing systems are not designed to facilitate such employer refunds for SSP, the government will work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment
mechanism for employers as soon as possible

The government is determined that the help needed to see the nation through Coronavirus is made available and will continue to monitor the situation and according to the Redbook “…stands ready to provide further support should it be needed.”