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Covid-19: how to claim sick pay during the coronavirus crisis

While the government has announced measures to cover the salary or profits of many small business owners who are unable to work because of coronavirus, unfortunately there are still many who will continue to struggle.

If you don’t qualify for the support or if you’re looking for a way to ease the burden on your cashflow, this article will highlight the additional sick pay support that you might be able to claim.

Claiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) as a limited company director

The type of sick pay you can claim depends on your business type. Most limited company directors, who are employees of their own company, will be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). In light of the coronavirus crisis, there are a few temporary changes to claiming and paying out SSP that you should be aware of. The arrangements are now as follows:

  • If you or your employees can’t work as a result of either being ill or self-isolating for coronavirus for more than four days, payments will be made from day one rather than from the usual fourth day of illness.
  • From 13th March 2020 you can start paying SSP from the first day an employee is off but would normally work, called a ‘qualifying day’, as long as they're off for at least four days in a row.
  • You and your employees will be eligible to receive SSP if you or they are staying at home on government advice, not just if you or they are unwell.
  • If you have fewer than 250 employees you will be able to reclaim SSP for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. The refund will be for up to two weeks per employee.
  • If you require your employees to provide evidence that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get an isolation note from the NHS 111 Online service instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor.

If an employee was off sick or self-isolating because of coronavirus before 13th March, you start paying SSP from the fourth qualifying day. However, if an employee was self-isolating before 13th March because someone else in their household had symptoms, they will not qualify for SSP.

You can use the government’s SSP eligibility checker to see if you’re eligible to claim SSP. Take a look at the government’s SSP guide for employers to find out more.

Claiming sick pay as a self-employed worker who doesn’t qualify for SSP

As well as the Self-employment Income Support scheme, in a bid to help self-employed workers who are unable to work because they have been forced to self-isolate or have become ill because of coronavirus, the government announced that Universal Credit will be available at the same rate as SSP (£94.25 per week). You can find out if you’re eligible for this support and how to apply for it on the Universal Credit section of the government’s website.

Employment Support Allowance (ESA) is another type of benefit that’s available to self-employed workers. It’s available to those who have a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. ESA is intended to provide financial assistance to people who have difficulty working because of a disability or longer-term illness than coronavirus. However, if you are an existing ESA claimant it will continue to be available as well as or instead of Universal Credit.

The government has also introduced some short-term arrangements for claimants of Universal Credit and ESA during the coronavirus pandemic. Under these arrangements, both new and existing claimants:

  • will receive payments from day one, rather than waiting the usual seven days
  • will not be required to produce a fit note
  • will not need to attend reassessments and will continue to receive their payments while their assessment is rearranged
  • will not be required to attend a face-to-face assessment (instead, they should call the Universal Credit helpline for more information)

The minimum income floor, which is an assumed level of income used to work out your Universal Credit payments, will not apply during the time that claimants are affected.

You can find out more about the support available for small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic on our small business coronavirus support hub.

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