UK Statutory Sick Pay explained: everything that workers and self-employed need to know about sick pay and how to claim during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak

With the UK now on lockdown and the virus continuing to spread, more and more people have been self isolating due to symptoms – as a result of this, there has been temporary adjustments made to how Statutory Sick Pay operates

Wednesday, 25th March 2020, 10:43 am
This is what you need to know about statutory sick pay during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)
This is what you need to know about statutory sick pay during the outbreak (Photo: Shutterstock)

Some temporary changes have been made by The Department for Work and Pensions in order to support those who have been affected by the virus.

This is everything you need to know about your statutory sick pay rights, which were revealed in the Budget 2020 on 11 March.

Will I get sick pay when self isolating?

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These are the symptoms you need to look out for (Photo: WHO)

The Budget 2020, revealed on Wednesday 11 March, outlined the financial support that would be available to those affected by coronavirus.

Statutory sick pay (SSP) “will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice”.

The extended SSP will be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate, even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms. This also includes individuals who are caring for people in the same household and have therefore been advised to do a household quarantine.

This announcement goes hand-in-hand with the change announced by the prime minister on March 4 that SSP will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals.

Boris Johnson told MPs: “I can today announce that the Health Secretary will bring forward, part part of our emergency legislation measures, to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules.

“No one should be penalised for doing the right thing.”

To be eligible for SSP, you need to be earning at least £118 per week.

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What if I’m self employed?

The Budget explains that those who are not eligible for SPP, such as self employed people or those earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now “more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance”.

The document explains: “For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self isolating according to government advice, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support.”

It also states that people will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront “without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate”.

How much is statutory sick pay?

The government website says that you can get £94.25 per week of statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks, but employers can pay more than this if they wish.

SSP is paid by your employer weekly or monthly, the same as how your regular wages are paid.

Do I need a note from the GP?

In an effort to keep the virus contained, those with symptoms should not visit their GP in person. It’s up to the discretion of employers to decide if they require evidence for their employees staying home.

If you need evidence to provide to your employer, you can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those that are living with someone displaying symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.

How do I claim Statutory Sick Pay?

To claim SSP, you’ll need to inform your employer that you are sick, or that you are in isolation with someone that is sick. You’ll need to check your symptoms, or the other persons symptoms, on the NHS 111 website here, which will advise you on whether you need to stay at home or not.

You can obtain an ‘isolation note’ by visiting NHS 111 online, instead of visiting a doctor.

For cases regarding Covid-19, this replaces the usual need for a ‘fit note’ or ‘sick note’ after seven days of sickness absence.

To get your ‘isolation note’, first head to the NHS 111 website here. From here, you’ll need to answer a series of questions, including:

- Have you been told to stay at home by the NHS website, NHS 111 or a healthcare professional?

- Why do you have to stay at home?

- When do you need this note to start from?

You’ll then be asked to enter your name, date of birth and an email address that NHS 111 can send your note to. If you do not have your own email address, you can enter in a trusted friend of family members email address instead.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of Monday 16 March the government advised that everyone should be observing social distancing - avoiding unnecessary travel and working from home where possible. Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms now needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.

The government has now instructed bars, restaurants and theatres to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.

The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate.

For more information on government advice, please check their website here.

Should I avoid public places?

The advice now is to avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.