Head of Legislation and Compliance Cintra HR & Payroll Services
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Statutory Sick Pay temporarily extends to self-isolation

Ian Holloway looks at the government's response to coronavirus implication by means of Statutory Sick Pay and self-isolation.

17th Mar 2020
Head of Legislation and Compliance Cintra HR & Payroll Services
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Senior man sick with corona virus

In the UK Budget Red Book on page 2 ‘Responding to COVID-19’, there is the comment about ‘extending Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for those advised to self-isolate and those caring for others who self-isolate’. At 1.94 ‘Eligibility for Statutory Sick pay (SSP)’ there are the following comments:

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; and 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  

The comment about a temporary extension is confusing, as I believe that SSP would have been payable to these people anyway. The Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 and the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1982 (as updated by the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Amendment Regulations 2006 and the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 both say that a reason for sickness eligibility is that the absence is for ‘precautionary or convalescent reasons’. This is confirmed in HMRC’s Statutory Payments Manual 1102000 where it says to be eligible to be considered for SSP, the primary condition is:

"They must be unfit for work under their contract of employment due to physical or mental incapacity, or have been advised to refrain from work for precautionary or convalescent reasons. Or be a carrier of or have been in contact with an infectious or contagious disease and been issued with a statement from the appropriate medical officer advising them not to go to work."

Further, on Radio 4’s Today Programme at the start of March, Health Secretary Mr Hancock also said ‘We've got a statutory sick pay system in this country and self-isolating for medical reasons if you're healthy counts as being sick in the legislation’.

I agree - someone who is self-isolating under advice is already covered in legislation.  

Therefore, it was a surprise (for me) to see The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 that came into force on 13 March 2020. These are specific in advising employers that a person who is isolating themselves from others in accordance with advice on coronavirus disease is deemed to be incapable of work (this advice comes from Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales).

Possibly, this legislation is just to make it 100% clear to employers and employees that advised self-isolation regarding COVID-19 is a valid reason for the individual to be deemed incapable of work under their contract of employment. Two points worth noting:

  • The legislation amends the General Regulations 1982 and, therefore, only applies in Great Britain
  • The legislation is temporary and the 1982 Regulations will not contain mention of self-isolation 8 months after the 2020 legislation came into force (13 March 2020).
  • Note also that this legislation is only a part of the expected emergency legislation dues over the next few days.  It does not mention the possibility of reclaiming SSP and does not mention anything about the withdrawal of the 3 Waiting Days.

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