As a business owner, you must be busy planning the new year that has just begun. For this reason, you have to keep abreast of the latest news and trends that may affect your organisation.
You may well have heard of the Government’s temporary changes to the sickness absence reporting regulations, and their reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. What does this mean for your business?
What is the temporary change to reporting sickness absence for SSP?
Previously, an employee could self-certify their sickness absence for 7 days without having to provide you with medical evidence (i.e. a fit note from a GP).
For absences beginning on or after 10th December 2021 up to and including 26th January 2022, employees can self-certify their sickness absence for 28 days without having to provide such evidence.
Beyond that period, they will require a fit note
within the usual rules.
The Government has introduced this temporary change so as to free up time for GP’s to administer boosters in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
What about employees who are self-isolating because of Covid-19?
Those employees will need to obtain an isolation note
(which they can do from NHS 111), and they may need to provide evidence for their absence such as proof of a positive test result or need to self-isolate in accordance with the regulations.
Won’t this mean that some employees push the scheme too far and claim sickness for longer periods than they should?
Clearly, if you believe the employee is fit for work even though they have said they are not, you will need to look at the precise wording of the contract and your sickness policy. You should then follow your normal investigative and disciplinary procedure in such circumstances, adhering to the usual employment laws and regulations.
Remember: the change is in respect of reporting sickness absence – it is not a free ticket to receiving SSP if they do not qualify for it in all other aspects.
What practical steps can I take?
- You should explain to your employees what the changes are and ask them to adhere to your reporting procedures (self-certification forms/notifications). You might want to remind them that the changes are only temporary – after 26th January 2022, they must provide those fit notes after 7 days of absence.
- You could subtly remind all employees that if they are subsequently found to falsify self-certification forms, this may lead to disciplinary action and potentially summary dismissal. But do be mindful to adhere to the usual employment laws if you do this – you do not want to make the employee worse, nor do you want a discrimination claim (or any other type of claim) on your hands!
- You could check your sickness policy and procedures to see what happens when the employee returns to work – for example, do you have a return-to-work interview where they can discuss with you why they were on sick leave? If not, you should think about amending the policy to include this. That interview might then raise ‘red flags’ for you to investigate the matter further, but will at the very least assist you in understanding if there are any additional measures that you need to take to help them return to work. It will also help you to ensure that you treat each employee in the same way and potentially assist you in defending claims raised by them.
- Make sure that you have a disciplinary procedure (even if it is solely the basic one recommended by ACAS).
What is the SSP Rebate Scheme?
Although further guidance is to follow, the scheme has been reintroduced with effect from 21st December 2021 to assist those businesses most impacted by Omicron in the UK.
It allows eligible employers to apply to HMRC to recover up to two weeks’ SSP for each eligible employee for absences related to Covid-19 even if you have previously claimed under the previous scheme for that employee.
Does our business meet the SSP Rebate Scheme conditions?
To qualify for the SSP Rebate Scheme:
- Your business must have less than 250 employees (as of 30th November 2021)
- Your business must be based in the UK
- The employee must be on sick leave for Covid-19 related reasons
- The employee qualifies for, and has been paid Covid-19 related, SSP
- Your PAYE payroll scheme was created or started on or before 30th November 2021
Get legal assistance from LawBite
Are you confused about the changes to sickness absence for SSP and what this means for your business? LawBite expert employment lawyers and solicitors are ready to help you make sure you are protecting your business and employees.
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