COVID-19 SSP enhancement scheme for care workers in Wales
10 November 2020: Wales introduces support to remove the financial disadvantage to care workers of staying away from work due to coronavirus. However, the guidance gives rise to numerous questions concerning eligibility, calculations and claims.
The Welsh government has introduced a statutory sick pay enhancement scheme to support care workers who only receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and those who are not eligible for SSP. It aims to provide funding to allow employers to pay eligible workers at full pay if they cannot work due to COVID-19. The same support packages available to the self-employed who are not eligible for SSP.
outlines questions that have arisen from the guidance of which employers should be aware. It is attempting to get more clarification on all of these points and will share these when they become available.
The employer claims funding for the scheme from the local authority. Although there is detailed guidance concerning scheme eligibility, it is not clear whether eligibility is based on where the employee lives or where the employee works and therefore which local authority claims should be made to.
It is also not clear when the scheme began given that Wales has just come out of a firebreak, although we are told that the scheme will run until 31 March 2021.
The guidance states that the value of the enhancement payment is the difference between the value of SSP (if any) and the employee’s usual full pay. If the employee works irregular hours, the average pay is taken from earnings over the past eight weeks.
However, it is unclear:
- whether the eight-week period is based on the same relevant period as SSP;
- whether furlough is ignored as it will have reduced average pay;
- what the reference pay is based on (ie, what pay elements); and
- whether a longer averaging period is used for zero-hours staff if they have not worked in the previous eight weeks.
The guidance is silent on the detail required by employers when submitting a claim to the local authority. As the scheme is targeted at certain employees in a specific sector in one part of the UK, ICAEW presumes that it falls under the emergency state aid framework, therefore requiring some form of legal declaration when requesting the money.
The guidance gives some detail on the declaration required to be obtained and retained from employees. It also confirms that a national insurance number (NINO) is required to make a claim. Currently the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is not routinely issuing NINOs as it is not holding face to face interviews due to COVID-19.
Finally, it is unclear whether agents can make claims on behalf of an employer.