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The COVID-19 pandemic led to various amendments to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) regime, which no longer apply after 25 March 2022. Such amendments were relevant to the definition of incapacity; payment of SSP; requirement for evidence; and recovery of SSP payments.

Incapacity

In order to qualify for SSP, workers must be absent from work due to incapacity. In March 2020, the government amended the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 so that workers were deemed to be incapable of work if they were self-isolating or shielding. This meant that workers were eligible for SSP if they were required to self-isolate without being diagnosed with, or having symptoms of, COVID-19.

On 25 March 2022 the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force. These Regulations revoked the “deemed incapacity” provisions so workers must now actually be incapable of work in order to be eligible for SSP, as per the pre pandemic position. As a result, those who are asymptomatic, or only have mild symptoms, will no longer be eligible for SSP, even if they test positive. This also applies to those identified as close contacts who have been asked to self-isolate.

Payment of SSP

Pre pandemic, SSP was only payable from the fourth day of absence. However, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 provided that, from 28 March 2020, where workers were absent from work due to the requirement to self-isolate, SSP was payable from the first day of absence, provided that the worker was self-isolating for at least 4 days in a row.

The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days) (Saving Provision) Regulations 2022 came into force on 25 March 2022 and provide that, despite the expiry of the Coronavirus Act 2020, the suspension of waiting days continues to apply to periods of incapacity which commenced on or before 24 March 2022.

Requirement for Evidence

On 17 December 2021 the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 came into force. These Regulations extended the period of self-certification from 7 days to 28 days. This meant that workers were permitted to self-certify their absence for 28 days before they were required to obtain a fit note from their GP.

This extension ended on 26 January 2022 and the period of self-certification has reverted to 7 days.

Recovery of SSP Payments

In March 2020 the Coronavirus Statutory Rebate Scheme (the Scheme) was introduced which allowed eligible employers to apply to HMRC for reimbursement of the SSP paid in respect of absences due to COVID-19. The reimbursement was limited to two weeks’ SSP per eligible worker and applied where the first day of incapacity due to coronavirus fell on or after 13 March 2020.

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