Statutory Sick Pay enhanced for Welsh care staff
Ian Holloway sorts out the known facts about the Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay enhancement scheme announced by the Welsh government, but there still are many unknowns.
The Welsh SSP enhancement scheme has very little to do with statutory sick pay (SSP). It is simply a government-funded top-up paid to the employer to help support workers in the social care sector while they are absent from work due to Covid-related issues.
There has no change to the UK-wide operation of the SSP regime. This Welsh initiative is a separate payment on top of any SSP that may be due, calculated in the normal way. For all employees on sick leave, employers should continue to refer to the generic guidance or the in-depth information contained in the Statutory Payments Manual. This scheme is an enhancement to any SSP payment that may or may not be due.
What we know
The enhancement is available to all, regardless of whether they are workers, employees or self-employed individuals. This is unlike SSP which is only payable to employees under a contract of employment.
The individual must be working in the social care sector. This covers a wide range of workers including care workers and nurses employed in care homes, domiciliary care workers, ancillary staff and bank/pool staff.
There is also wide list of individuals that are not entitled to the enhancement such as; staff working in healthcare settings, foster carers and care workers in childcare and play service employments.
It is vital that employers consider the range of individuals and refer to the Welsh government’s guidance on eligibility. Remember, SSP is for employees only but this enhancement scheme applies to eligible individuals (who do not have to be employees).
To be eligible for the Welsh enhancement scheme the absence from work must be caused by:
- having symptoms of COVID-19
- testing positive for COVID-19
- self-isolating due to being identified as a contact by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service
- self-isolating because a member of the household (or extended household) is self-isolating
Absences from work won’t be eligible where:
- there are childcare or carer responsibilities, even if schools or day services have closed due to COVID-19
- there is a need to quarantine following foreign travel
- the individual cannot work due to being assessed as high risk using the All Wales COVID-19 workforce risk assessment tool
What pay level?
This is complicated and depends on whether the individual is receiving any pay at all. The basics are:
- If the individual is paid their full pay during the absence, they are not eligible to have their pay enhanced.
- If the individual is an employee or worker and receives only SSP (£95.85 per week), they are entitled to have their pay enhanced.
- If the individual is an employee or worker and is not eligible to receive SSP, they are entitled to have their pay enhanced.
- If the individual is not an employee or worker but is self-employed, they are entitled to have their pay enhanced, as long as no other pay is paid for the absence.
How does it work?
There is nothing in the guidance about details of how the scheme will work in practice. However, the guidance does tell us the following elements will be required:
In order to receive the enhancement, the individual will complete “a brief declaration” to allow their employer to share personal data with the local authority who will administer the scheme.
Notification of absence
The individual will submit details of their absence to the employer. This is required for SSP purposes if the individual is an employee or a worker. SSP will be calculated and paid as normal.
The individual will notify their employer that they wish their pay to be enhanced via the Welsh enhancement scheme. Remembering that the enhancement scheme applies to all individuals, this top-up may be possible, if the conditions described above are met.
Calculating the enhancement
The employer will pay ‘their full salary as per the usual payroll’. This may be a combination of SSP and enhanced pay, both of which are classed as earnings and subject to the usual statutory deductions, including pension and student loans.
If the individual meets all of the criteria, the calculation of the top-up to 100% of usual salary is extraordinarily simple. According to the guidance: “the value of the enhancement payment is the difference between the value of SSP and the employee’s usual full pay”.
- If the employee works irregular hours, the average pay is taken from earnings over the past eight weeks.
- If the employee is not eligible for SSP, the enhancement is 100% of the usual / average pay.
How to claim the enhancement
Having made the payment to the individual the employer will inform their local authority (not clear how) providing the following information for each employee they are claiming for:
- national insurance number
- pay information
- absence dates and
- category of absence
The local authority will then reimburse the employer the value of the top-up.
There are a large number of uncertainties, for example:
- Which employers are eligible to use the Welsh Government’s scheme?
- Is it only open to employers located in Wales, or can an employer in England be eligible if their employee works in eligible employment in Wales?
- What is the interaction between this enhancement scheme and the situations where the employer is able to claim back SSP from HMRC?
- Where are these ‘declarations’ that individuals have to complete?
- What exactly is ‘usual pay’, is it contractual salary, or contractual furlough salary?
- If the employee works irregular hours and the average calculation has to be performed, does the eight-week average ‘earnings’ calculation mean the employer has to take into account any bonuses, commission, backpay etc in this period?
- Is the application process just a question of sending a form to the local authority?
This enhanced scheme has not replaced SSP, which must be paid according to the existing rules. In certain cases, the employer may be able to enhance this SSP using this enhanced payment, but not always.
I believe the only thing that is certain about the Welsh enhancement scheme is that it is certain to confuse employers.
It is absolutely essential than employers who believe they may be able to claim the top-up from their local authority, make contact with that authority in the very first instance.
You might also be interested in
Ian Holloway is a highly respected payroll practitioner, writer, advisor and trainer. He has worked in the payroll profession for over 30 years and is now Payroll Consultant at i-Realise, an independent change management business operating in the payroll space. Ian has hands-on experience processing payrolls from all sectors, large and small....