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Employers ‘must be prepared’ for statutory sick pay changes in March

Two major changes concerning statutory sick pay (SSP) will take effect on the 24th of March.

Firstly, SSP will return to pre-pandemic rules whereby it will only be payable from day four of illness, rather than day one. People who are off sick with Covid will still be able to get SSP if they qualify, as it will be treated like any other sickness.

Kate Palmer, HR Advice & Consultancy Director at Peninsula, recommends that employers inform their staff of this upcoming change and update their sick policies in accordance.

She adds: “This removal of the day one right to receive SSP for Covid absences will likely pose some challenges for employers. Now there is no legal requirement to self-isolate in positive cases, employers may still wish to encourage their staff to stay at home in the interest of health and safety.

“However, when faced with the prospect of three days without pay, employees may not be forthcoming in disclosing their test results. Some employers may want to offer enhanced sick pay to encourage employees to self-isolate instead of relying solely on SSP.

“This is where a robust self-isolation policy which includes the company’s stance on sick pay will come into play.”
The second change is to the SSP Rebate Scheme. Currently, employers with fewer than 250 employees can recoup up to 2 weeks’ SSP for each employee who is off sick with a Covid-related absence between 21 December 2021 and 17 March 2022.

This scheme is set to close on the 24th March, meaning that employers will have to take on these costs themselves.

Kate Palmer says: “The rebate scheme has been a lifeline to smaller businesses who have faced widespread absences owing to the pandemic. However, now with the legal requirement to self-isolate lifted, it is anticipated that business operations will start to return to normal pre-pandemic levels.

“But there are question marks for those employers who will still require their staff to isolate in Covid-positive cases as they will have to take on the associated costs of SSP from day four of absence. They may even wish to consider offering enhanced sick pay to encourage employees to self-isolate.”