The Government has launched a scheme to refund smaller employers whose employees have been on sick leave due to the coronavirus pandemic as latest figures show a big rise in unemployment benefit claimants in the last month.
The Government has launched the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which will repay smaller employers the Statutory Sick Pay paid to current or former employees.
The online service will be available from 26 May 2020 and is for employers who had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020.
Repayment will cover up to two weeks starting from the first qualifying day of sickness, if an employee is unable to work because they either:
Employers can claim for periods of sickness starting on or after:
The weekly rate was £94.25 before 6th April 2020 and is now £95.85. If an employer pays more than the weekly rate of SSP they can only claim up to the weekly rate paid.
Employees do not have to give employees a doctor’s fit note to make a claim. But employers can ask them to give either:
Kate Palmer, Associate Director of Advisory at HR experts Peninsula, said: “Businesses across the UK are likely to breathe a sigh of relief at the news that they will finally be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP) amounts back from the government through this rebate scheme, despite it being many weeks since it was initially announced. Sitting alongside the furlough scheme, this new scheme offers more assistance to employers who have seen staff take sick leave as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus, to help them to keep their business open and functioning throughout the crisis.
“It is interesting that, unlike the furlough scheme, this assistance is only open to companies of a certain size, suggesting that the government is aware meeting statutory sick pay (SSP) costs is likely to be more difficult for smaller businesses and are therefore putting procedures in place to help them. It remains to be seen if eligibility for reclaiming SSP will be broadened to include larger companies, and it is likely any decisions in this manner will come as we move through the crisis.
“However, what is clear is that furloughed staff cannot benefit from the SSP Rebate Scheme if they stay on furlough; staff must either be furloughed, or placed on sick leave. They cannot be both at once.”
The Government has also announced that it has updated the eligibility details for its Future Fund, which was set up to provide government loans to UK-based companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors.
Applications for the Fund will open on Wednesday 20 May 2020.
The announcements come as ONS figures show a 69% in the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits in April. Many of these will still be employed, however, due to changes in Universal Credit during the pandemic and will include people on sick leave or furlough or whose income has reduced as a result of the virus.
The ONS figures show that up to March employment was continuing to rise, largely driven by the number of women working full time – up by 10% since the first quarter of 2016. The rate of increase is around twice that of men. They also show the number of self-employed women has increased by 45.3% over the last 10 years – more than double the percentage increase for men, although they only account for around one in 20 of all people in employment.
The figures also show a fall of 170,000 vacancies in the first quarter of the year, the largest quarterly change since the current time series started in 2001, eclipsing the decrease of 106,000 vacancies in the three months to January 2009.