HMRC updates Statutory Sick Pay rules for agency workers – check if you’re eligible now | Personal Finance | Finance


HMRC has different eligibility rules for different employment types for SSP. SSP awards eligible claimants £96.35 per week if they’re too ill to work and it is paid by employers for up to 28 weeks. These payments became crucial for many workers in 2020 as coronavirus wreaked havoc on the economy and the Government was urged to extend payments to ineligible staff members.

“Agency workers whose contract does not continue between assignments are subject to them being employed earners and meeting the qualifying conditions entitled to SSP for the entire period of incapacity for work until the assignment ends (for reasons other than avoiding liability for SSP) or entitlement to SSP ends for another reason as detailed on the SSP1 form.

“Agency workers who are employed earners and meet the qualifying conditions become eligible for SSP from the first day on which they have done some work under their contract. For agency workers who have an agreed future assignment which is to commence no later than eight weeks after the end of the current assignment, SSP eligibility will arise from day one of that future assignment, as though it were the same assignment, even if they have not done any work under the future assignment.”

HMRC concluded by clarifying self-employed individuals, including self-employed agency workers, are not eligible for SSP.

SSP came into focus again in recent weeks as the “pingdemic” impacted the economy. More than five million people in England were advised to self-isolate by the NHS COVID-19 app since it was launched in September 2020, leavings employees worried about whether they could get paid if they were unable to work from home.

Laura Kearsley, partner and employment law solicitor at Nelsons, explained what the law says on workers’ wages after getting pinged, specifically where SSP is concerned.

“Adults who receive an alert from the NHS COVID-19 app are advised to self-isolate for up to ten days unless they have received both of their vaccinations, though this can be longer if someone goes on to develop symptoms themselves,” she said.

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“Over the past few weeks, the number of people being ‘pinged’ by the app has reportedly resulted in staff shortages and disruption for some businesses. This is particularly challenging for those industries where people are unable to work from home, such as supermarkets and on transport networks.

“This has caused many workers across the country to be worried about whether they will still receive their usual wage if they are not fully vaccinated and, as a result, forced to self-isolate.

“Earlier in the pandemic, the Government said those who aren’t displaying symptoms but have been told to stay away from work should be entitled to sick pay. However, strictly speaking, there is no right to sick pay for anyone in self-isolation as technically, it’s just a precaution and they are not considered ‘sick’.

“Statutory sick pay (SSP) is available to those who are employed, earning at least £118 a week and have been off work for four consecutive days. The current rate of SSP is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to a maximum of 28 weeks for the days employees usually work. SSP is usually payable after three ‘waiting days’ of absence but these do not apply to most circumstances where an employee is self-isolating and they will be entitled to sick pay from day one. It’s up to your employer – and should be set out in your contract – as to whether you’re paid more than SSP.

“If SSP isn’t an option, a pinged employee could ask to be furloughed and receive 80 percent of their current salary up to £2,500, although the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is due to end on 30 September. Alternatively, workers can ask for annual or unpaid leave to self-isolate.

“Those who are required to self-isolate, are on low incomes and unable to work from home could be entitled to financial support through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme, which provides a one-off payment of £500.

“The self-employed could try and claim a payment from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, which pays up to 80 percent of average profits up to a maximum of £7,500 for three months. Like the CJRS, this is due to end on 30 September.

“While those who are pinged by the app are not guaranteed financial support if they cannot work, we would recommend employers be flexible and use discretion where possible.”

To make a claim for SSP, workers will need to tell their employers by the deadline. Workers should check with their employer about how they should inform them.

If a person cannot work for seven or more days (including non-working days) workers will need an isolation note, their notification from the NHS or public health authorities if they’re been told to self-isolate because they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus, a sick note if they’re off sick for another reason or a letter confirming the date of their procedure if they’ve been advised to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery.

If a worker is unhappy with a decision made on their claim, they should talk to their employer if they think their decision was wrong.

Should this not resolve the issue, workers can contact the HMRC Statutory Payment Disputes Team for help.

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