New COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement Scheme in Wales

5th November 2020

As part of the UK Government’s emergency legislation measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, a significant change was made to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), effective from 13 March 2020. If someone was unable to work due to coronavirus and they were eligible for SSP, they received SSP from day one, rather than from the usual fourth day.

Statutory Sick Pay provision

This provision applies where someone is self-isolating for a number of reasons and is unable to work because, for instance, they have symptoms of coronavirus or have tested positive for it or someone in their household has.

The current rate of SSP is £95.85 a week.

In an important development, the Welsh Government has introduced a COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay enhancement scheme to support care workers who are required to stay off work due to actual or suspected COVID-19 or because they have to self-isolate. The scheme runs from 1 November 2020 until 31 March 2021.

The purpose of the scheme is to support care workers who only receive statutory SSP or who are not eligible for SSP.

The scheme provides funding which enables employers to pay eligible workers at full pay if they cannot work due to COVID-19. In essence, the employer pays the employee their full salary and informs the local authority and provides details of the employee’s NI number, pay, absence dates and category of absence. The local authority will then reimburse the employer through monthly payments, or more frequently if required. The value of the enhancement payment is the difference between the value of SSP and the employee’s usual full pay.

Employees are not eligible for the scheme if they already receive full pay when taking time off for sickness absence. The Guidance refers to other scenarios when the SSP enhancement will not be paid.

Regarding eligibility, this covers the role carried out by the individual, the type of employment and the reasons for the absence. Looking specifically at role eligibility, under the scheme the individual must be:

  • An employee of a registered care home (including children’s homes)
  • An employee of a domiciliary care service
  • An agency care worker or agency nurse (when undertaking work booked by a registered care home or domiciliary care service)
  • Bank or pool staff when booked to undertake a series of shifts
  • Contracted staff providing daily input into care homes and having substantial contact with residents (for example catering staff)
  • A personal assistant paid through direct payments

The Guidance includes a comprehensive section with details relating to eligible and non-eligible staff roles (together with examples) and this needs to be considered carefully. The Guidance also includes a helpful section about the process to be followed under the scheme and what action employers should be taking now.

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