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Keep records to make coronavirus claims, businesses told

17 March 2020: ICAEW’s Tax Faculty is urging qualifying businesses to ensure that they keep records of statutory sick pay as evidence for future reclaims from the government.

The faculty’s call follows an announcement by the Department for Work and Pensions on 13 March 2020, confirming the implementation of changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules and other support for businesses and individuals announced in the Spring Budget.

The announcement confirmed that:

  • People who cannot work due to coronavirus and are eligible for SSP will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness – the intention is to legislate so this measure applies retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
  • SSP will be payable to people staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 after regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 – employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.
  • If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online – this is currently under development and will be made available soon.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee.

The 250 employee limit is measured as per number of employees on 28 February 2020, although it is unclear how the connected companies rules might apply.

The Tax Faculty also understands that the development of a mechanism to enable businesses to recover coronavirus-related SSP is some months away.

In light of this, employers might want to make payments of SSP related to COVID-19 within a special pay element of their payroll set up so that they can easily evidence a future reclaim.

HMRC has also been asked whether in the interim there will be any advanced funding for SMEs; this could be done by way of a structured email that would be easy to deploy, like for advances of statutory parental, paternal, adoption and maternity pay.

For the self-employed, HMRC's announcement confirmed:

  • Contributions based employment and support allowance will be payable from day one rather than day eight.
  • Advance payments of universal credit will be available without the requirement to attend a jobcentre.
  • The requirements of the minimum income floor for universal credit will be temporarily relaxed for the duration of the outbreak.