On 12 March the government published the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020, setting out the conditions for workers who need to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic.

The regulations are initially time limited for eight months from 13 March, but this will be kept under review by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The provisions mean that anyone who has to self-isolate “in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease” in accordance with official government guidance, is deemed to be incapable of work, thus allowing them to claim SSP.

SSP does not extend to those that are genuinely self-employed. However, the government has announced that the self-employed will be able to claim a new style of employment support allowance from the first day of their isolation, and it is also temporarily changing universal credit so that the minimum income ‘floor’ of how much the self-employed person would normally expect to earn in a month is ignored when calculating entitlement to universal credit.

The position with respect to contractual sick pay will be governed by the terms of the contract. In most cases contractual sick pay is based on an employee being incapable of work. Unless “incapable” is defined in the contract, employees should assert that it should be interpreted in the same way as SSP, meaning that the employee should receive contractual sick pay where they are required to self-isolate in accordance with official guidance.

Insofar as employees are concerned, it is also worth remembering that statutory dependants’ leave is available from day one of employment. This allows employees to take a reasonable amount of time off work to help someone who depends on them because of an unexpected event. However, this is unpaid.

Other employment law changes due to take effect in April and set out on the Acas website include the Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act (weekly LELR 655); requirements on employers to provide written statements; and changes to agency workers’ rights including the abolition of the so-called Swedish derogation.

Articles shared by Thompsons relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) are correct on the time of publication. You should check the government's guidelines for the latest information and advice at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

To read Thompsons advice on employee and employer responsibilities in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) in full, go to: https://www.thompsonstradeunion.law/news/news-releases/employment-matters/briefing-on-employer-and-employees-responsibilities-in-the-wake-of-coronavirus

To read the Acas advice on coronavirus (COVID-19), go to: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/time-off-work-to-look-after-someone 

To read the Acas employment law update, go to: https://archive.acas.org.uk/lawupdate