The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme opens on 26 May 2020. The scheme will reimburse Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments to small businesses in situations where employees have had to take time off due to COVID-19 related sickness, self-isolation or shielding. The scheme could help small businesses cope with the financial impact of the pandemic. As with many current schemes, the key is to properly understand the rules and regulations prior to using it.
What is the scheme?
The Government talked about specific SSP rules very early on during the pandemic as a key to tackling the economic impact. On 3 March, the Prime Minister said that COVID-19 related SSP would be payable from the first qualifying day and in the Budget 2020 speech on 11 March, the Chancellor confirmed the reimbursement would happen, affecting employers with fewer than 250 employees.
Finally, on 19 May, HMRC issued guidance on the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and the surrounding legislation. The scheme will come into force on 26 May, which is also when the online portal for the scheme will open and accept applications. The legislation dealing with the rebate scheme is two-fold:
- The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) Regulations 2020
- The Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020.
It’s important to keep in mind the SSP rate changed on 6 April 2020 from £94.25 per week to £95.85 per week. Furthermore, the scheme follows the 28-week maximum rule and any SSP claimed cannot exceed 28 weeks.
Who is eligible to use the rebate scheme?
The scheme is available for employers that meet two qualifying conditions. These are:
- The business must have had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020.
- The employer was not ‘in difficulty’ on 31 December 2019. For the definition of ‘in difficulty’, the guidelines refer to the agreed UK state aid support scheme for SMEs.
What periods are you allowed to claim for?
If you meet the above two conditions, then you might be able to claim if your employees have had absence related to the coronavirus. You can claim for the first 14 days per employee if the employee was absent due to:
- COVID-19 related sickness or self-isolation starting on or after 13 March 2020.
- COVID-19 related shielding following public health advice for periods starting on and after 16 April 2020.
For shielding, the employee should have a letter from the GP or the NHS to clarify the need for shielding
As mentioned above, it’s important to note the change in the amount available to claim on 6 April 2020. You should keep this in mind when calculating the total sums.
Where can you claim for the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme?
You can claim via the online portal. The portal opens on 26 May 2020 and similar to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the service can be accessed with your government gateway ID. Unlike some other schemes, tax agents could claim on behalf of their clients.
What information will you need to provide?
The Government has published updated guidance regarding the information you will need to provide while making the claim. You will need the following information when claiming online:
- Your PAYE scheme reference number (employer)
- Your contact name and telephone number
- Your bank account details for BACS payments
Furthermore, you will need to provide information regarding the SSP payments you’ve made. The online claim will seek information regarding:
- The total amount of COVID-19 SSP paid and the claim period
- The number of employees you’re claiming for
Interestingly, you don’t need to provide information on the individual employees, as your claim can cover multiple employees. There is no need to provide employee National Insurance numbers, for example.
Do note that you need to keep certain records when you are making the claim, even though you don’t have to provide them at the time of the claim. The records are:
- The dates the employee was off sick
- The qualifying dates of that sickness period
- The reason they were off – i.e. did they have symptoms, were they living with someone with symptoms or were they shielding?
- The National Insurance number of the employee
You’ll need to keep these records for 3 years after the date you receive the payment for your claim.
How to get help with the rebate scheme
As with any scheme, it’s important to read the HMRC guidance in full to ensure you understand it correctly. In terms of the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, it is especially crucial to understand the records you should keep when making the claim and the available periods to claim.
The good news is that your tax advisor can claim on your behalf. It can be helpful to have an advisor look at your claim and the information you have before making the claim, even if you make the claim yourself. This can help guarantee the details are correct and save you from having to make corrections later down the line.
Our professionals at Devonshire Green have a lot of experience in working with small businesses. We can help you navigate the new legislation and make sure you get the help your small business deserves. Contact us today and let’s see how we can best help you during these difficult times!