Coronavirus sick absence and sick pay

Given the ongoing spread of the Coronavirus, we are providing generic guidance for members.

What support can I get?

• If you are an employee, your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply if you are ill.

• You cannot get less than the statutory amount. You can get more if your company has a sick pay scheme (or ‘occupational scheme’) – check your employment contract.

o Some employees may not qualify for their employer’s scheme if they are told to self-isolate despite not being ill. However, it is good practice for employers to treat this as sick leave and follow the usual sick pay policy.

• Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be payable if you are staying at home on Government advice, not just if you are infected by coronavirus. This has applied since 13 March 2020.

• You must earn on average at least £118 per week (before tax) to be entitled to SSP.

• People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for SSP will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness if you are self-isolating and cannot work.

• You can get £94.25 per week SSP and it is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

What if I am self-employed?

• If you are self-employed, you are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). However, if you fall ill you may be able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit at the same rate as SSP if you need help with costs such as housing or children. Apply here.

• Self-employed claimants who are on Universal Credit who are required to stay at home or are ill as a result of coronavirus will not have a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income) applied for a period of time while affected.

What if I am a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract?

• If you are a gig worker and/or on a zero hours contract, you may be entitled to sick pay. Check your eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay.

• The range of support currently in place for those who do not receive Statutory Sick Pay, includes Universal Credit and contributory Employment and Support Allowance. Apply here.

Holiday carry-over rules

Workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will now be able to carry it over into the next two leave years, the government has announced.

Currently, almost all workers are entitled to 28 days holiday including bank holidays each year. However, most of this entitlement cannot be carried between leave years, meaning workers lose their holiday if they do not take it.

There is also an obligation on employers to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year — failure to do so could result in a financial penalty.

The regulations will allow up to four weeks of un- used leave to be carried into the next two leave years, easing the requirements on business to en-sure that workers take statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.

This will mean staff can continue working in the national effort against the coronavirus without losing out on annual leave entitlement.

The changes will also ensure all employers affected by COVID-19 have the flexibility to allow workers to carry over leave at a time when granting annual leave could leave them short-staffed in some of Britain’s key industries, such as food and healthcare.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Whether it is in our hospitals, or our supermarkets, people are working around the clock to help our country deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today’s changes will mean these valued employees do not lose out on the annual leave they are entitled to as a result of their efforts, and employers are not penalised.”

The changes will amend the Working Time Regulations, which apply to almost all workers, including agency workers, those who work irregular hours, and workers on zero-hours contracts.

The changes are aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday.

You can read more about carrying over annual leave to be relaxed to support key industries during COVID-19 by clicking here.

How do I provide evidence to my employer?

• Employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for. The Government have asked employers to be flexible on medical certificates from GPs as it may not be possible for employees in isolation to obtain such evidence.

• If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor. You can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online or from the NHS website.

Government asks

Community is lobbying the Government with colleagues in the trade union movement to:

• Act now to remove the lower earnings limit for qualification for sick pay, and ensure everyone can access it, no matter how much they earn.

• Urgently increase the weekly level of sick pay from £94.25 to the equivalent of a week’s pay at the Real Living Wage.

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