Any employee going into self-isolation as a precautionary measure against coronavirus infection will be eligible to receive SSP, provided all other usual conditions are satisfied.
SSP is payable to the employee “isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales and effective on 12th March 2020; and by reason of that isolation is unable to work.” This change has come into force on 13 March 2020 and is temporary expiring in 8 months.
The employees do not have to have a confirmed case of coronavirus, neither will they likely to be tested for it.
Public Health England currently advises anyone with new continuous cough and/or high temperature, however mild, to self-isolate for a period of 7 days. No sick notes and no individual direction from a health professional to self-isolate are necessary.
The Prime Minister announced on 16 March 2020 that anyone who has been in contact with someone who experiences the symptoms of the coronavirus infection will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days, so that the entire household will stay self-isolated for this period.
Public Health England also advises that people who have returned from Hubei Province, including Wuhan, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo in the Republic of Korea, and any area within Italy under containment measures in the last 14 days should avoid attending work. They should call NHS 111 for advice and stay at home.
Finally, the Government suggests that those who have had close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus will be asked to stay at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case and follow the home isolation advice sheet.
It would be enough for the employee to fall into any of the above categories to be deemed incapacitated for the SSP purposes.
The abolition of the waiting days, so the SSP is payable from day one of self-isolation, was announced in the budget but no changes to the relevant regulations have yet been made. It was also announced that small and medium businesses employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020 will be reimbursed SSP paid for the first 14 days of sickness as a result of coronavirus.
The SSP rate is currently £94.25 each week rising to £95.85 from 6 April 2020.
Remember that the first 7 days of incapacity are self-certified. The Government has also indicated that requirements for sick notes will be relaxed but no specific regulations have yet been made.
Your employees affected by coronavirus may have contractual entitlement to sick pay on top of the SSP. This matter is regulated by the provisions in the employment contract. You may also have a sick pay policy in place regulating the extra pay. Nothing will prevent you to make one-off ex gratia payments to your staff as long these extra payments are not discriminatory or arbitrary in nature.
If you want to introduce sick pay in addition to SSP, it is advisable to do so as variation to the employment contract signed by your employee, especially if you want to stipulate any conditions when you may be entitled to claw the sick pay back, for example if your employee leaves your employ within certain period of time.
If you wish to make some extra payments to help your staff cope but on the condition that the sums advanced will be then paid back in the course of employment, then it is really a loan and should be offered as a loan, and should comply with the applicable FCA requirements.