The Government has announced the launch of a new online service to let small and medium-sized employers claim back some coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Originally announced several weeks ago, the Government has finally confirmed when the Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme is set to be open for applications. The scheme covers staff SSP payments for up to two weeks of sickness absence when the absence is related to the coronavirus outbreak. Any additional, contractual sick pay is not included.

The new online service will enable small and medium-sized employers to apply to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees. These employers will then receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

Through use of the scheme, organisations will be able to apply for rebates on SSP paid to staff who were off work due to having coronavirus symptoms on or after 13 March 2020. Rebates will also be available to staff who started “shielding” in line with Government guidance on or after 16 April 2020. To be eligible to apply, organisations will need to have had less than 250 members of staff on 28 February 2020.

The Scheme is set to cover any members of staff who were on a PAYE payroll scheme created and started before 28 February 2020. This includes:

  • full-time employees

  • part-time employees

  • employees on agency contracts

  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

Furloughed staff are not included as, due to being furloughed, should not be receiving SSP.

Organisations will need to make use of an online portal in order to submit claims. They will need to submit record of all SSP paid to employees that they wish to claim for, but will not need to submit evidence of illness, such as an employee’s fit note. They will also need to have a Government Gateway ID. In order to make the application process simpler, it is expected that alternative methods of applying, without using the online portal, will be announced soon.

Organisations should now work out the pay periods they wish to set and how many staff they wish to claim for in each period, alongside the amount of SSP paid. It should be remembered that the weekly rate of SSP is £95.85 as of 6 April 2020. Prior to that date, it was £94.25.

Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), Therese Coffey, said: “We are committed to supporting Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses through this pandemic with a comprehensive package of support. This rebate will put money back in the pockets of millions of employers, ensuring they can hit the ground running as the economy re-opens.”

When the new service goes live, details will be available at www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19#history.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

Businesses across the UK are likely to breathe a sigh of relief at the news that they will finally be able to claim SSP amounts back from the Government through this rebate scheme, despite it being many weeks since it was initially announced.

Sitting alongside the furlough scheme, this new scheme offers more assistance to employers who have seen staff take sick leave as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus, to help them to keep their businesses open and functioning throughout the crisis.

It is interesting that, unlike the furlough scheme, this assistance is only open to companies of a certain size, suggesting that the Government is aware of meeting SSP costs is likely to be more difficult for smaller businesses and is therefore putting procedures in place to help them.

It remains to be seen if eligibility for reclaiming SSP will be broadened to include larger companies, and it is likely any decisions in this manner will come as we move through the crisis.

Last reviewed 21 May 2020