Coronavirus Help • March 20, 2020
SSP Changes & Emergency Volunteering Leave
Written by Jennifer Ormond
The Coronavirus Bill 2020 (the Bill) was published yesterday. It answers some of the questions which employers have been asking but not all.
We are conscious that information is being given out at Press Conferences daily in advance of the legislation having been drafted so there could be many more changes to come.
The Bill answers four big questions:
1) Can I reclaim Statutory Sick Pay paid out because of coronavirus?
Yes. In a change to the law statutory sick pay is now paid on day 1 of absence to an employee whose incapacity for work is related to coronavirus.
This has been back dated to 13 March 2020.
These payments are recoverable from HMRC and employers may even be able to claim them in advance but we are waiting for further regulations on this point.
2) Do I have to pay my staff for time off to look after their children?
No. The law has not changed and emergency time off for the care of a dependant remains unpaid. We do not yet know how individuals will be compensated but employers do not have to cover this cost.
3) Have the time limits on lay-off and short time working changed?
No. The law has not changed and so any week where an employee is laid-off or placed on short time working of less than 50% of their pay must be counted. Any 4 consecutive weeks, or any 6 weeks (with no more than 3 consecutive) in a period of 13 will entitle an employee to be treated as having been made redundant and will lose their job. They will be entitled to their redundancy pay which could be a significant cost to businesses.
If there is a country wide shut down, we expect this to change given that Boris Johnson has expressly stated: “no one will lose their job because of coronavirus.” We are predicting that in the same way that some Scandinavian countries have done, in the event of an imposed lockdown, the Government may cover some employees’ wages.
4) Has anything else changed?
Yes. In a change to the law the government has introduced “Emergency Volunteering Leave.”
An employee will be entitled to be absent from work for a block of 2, 3 or 4 weeks (only once in a period of 16 weeks) to provide health or social care for a period of time specified on an emergency volunteering certificate. This is only applicable to businesses with 10 or more employees and your employee must provide 3 workings day’s notice and a copy of the certificate (provided by a Local Authority).
The benefit to businesses is that during a shortage of work (or lockdown) you will not be responsible for the wages of any employee who is on Emergency Volunteering Leave.
The employee is then protected from being dismissed or subject to a detriment from having taken up a volunteering post or having sought to take up a post. They are also entitled to return to the same terms and conditions of employment from before they went on leave and their wage will be paid for by the Secretary of State.
This is very similar to being pregnant or taking time off on maternity – please contact us in the future if your employees take up Emergency Volunteering Leave.
We have lots of guidance on this site:
• Lay-off and short time working here;
• Considerations other than full blown lay-off here;
• Pre-lockdown pay flow chart here;
Please review the above and consider making plans for the future viability of your company.
If you have any questions, please ring or email us, or even consider the live chat below. We are experiencing very high demand at the moment but we will always come back to you the same day, as soon as we possibly can.
Thank you and stay safe;
Alf, Jen, Kev
P.S – Sit tight everybody! We anticipate that the Chancellor will be announcing the business support packages today. The guidance posted so far can be found here.
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