Since 17 March, you can’t claim statutory sick pay or Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) if you (or someone in your household) need to self-isolate because of Covid-19. Also from 17 March, statutory sick pay only starts from the 4th day after you got too ill to work. Read on for more.
- Background – Statutory Sick Pay
- Background – ESA
- What Does This Mean For You?
- What Should You Do If You Are Affected By This Change And Catch Covid?
Background – Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory sick pay (SSP) is money that your employer must pay you if you are off sick, provided you meet the conditions. If your employer has a sick pay scheme of their own (called contractual sick pay), they must pay at least as much as SSP.
The Government introduced a new statutory sick pay in 2020 which meant employers had to pay SSP to their employees if they (or a member of their household) had to self-isolate because of Covid-19. The Government also said SSP had to paid from the first day of getting ill. This new scheme was designed to help people self-isolate or stop working if they caught Covid-19, to limit the spread of the virus. So that smaller employers didn’t have to pay the additional costs of this new scheme, the Government also said that they could reclaim some SSP costs from the Government – this was called the SSP rebate scheme.
The Government now says that people should only stop working if they are too ill to work, not just because they have tested positive for Covid-19 or have symptoms of Covid which don’t stop them working. So, they have changed the SSP rules back to how they applied in 2020. This has applied since 17 March. Also, on 24 March the SSP rebate scheme closed, and smaller employers were not able to submit any new claims.
Background – ESA
Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) is a benefit mostly replaced by Universal Credit. However, people who have paid enough National insurance can still claim what the DWP call ‘new style ESA’, or contributory ESA. Contributory ESA is money paid to people who are too sick to work, but who aren’t entitled to statutory sick pay or who have lost their job because of sickness.
In March 2020, Government changed the ESA rules so that people could claim ESA because they were self-isolating because of Covid-19, even if they weren’t showing symptoms. On 17 March, the rules changed back, so people will not be able to claim ESA just because they are self-isolating. However, if you are too ill to work because of Covid-19, you can still claim ESA.
What Does This Mean For You?
- If you are not employed, these changes WON’T affect you.
- If you are employed and your employer pays you sick pay under your contract of employment, these changes WON’T affect you.
- If you are employed and your employer doesn’t pay you sick pay under your contract of employment, so that you have to claim SSP, these changes HAVE affected you from 17 March.
- If you are employed and you can’t claim SSP, but can claim contributory or ‘new style’ ESA, these changes HAVE affected you from 17 March.
- If you are a small employer who has previously reclaimed SSP from the Government under the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, this will also affect you as 24 March was the last day to submit claims under this scheme.
What Should You Do If You Are Affected By This Change And Catch Covid?
If you catch Covid, you may feel too ill to work and need to claim SSP or ESA just as if you had caught any other illness. If this is your situation, you will not get SSP for the first three days of illness, but that is the same as it has always been for other illnesses.
The big change is if you catch Covid but do not feel so physically ill with Covid that you can’t work. Since 17 March, the Government will not pay you SSP or ESA to stay at home and protect other people from catching Covid from you. It is definitely not responsible to go out and spread the virus to other people, especially people who might get very ill or die. But, on the other hand, you will not be automatically paid to self-isolate as has been the case since March 2020, so your social responsibility now costs you money.
BuDS recommends that, if you catch Covid but aren’t too ill for work, you first of all ask your employer if you can work from home. This might be doing your regular job or a temporary job like admin. If you can work from home, you won’t have to stop working while still protecting people from catching the virus. Few employers will want someone working if they know they have Covid.
If you have to go out to work, BuDS recommends you consider very carefully if it is possible for you to self-certify that you are too ill to work. Covid is not a mild virus and everyone who catches it has to be careful of their health. You may be well enough to rest at home but working, especially manual work, might be too much for you. You might also develop anxiety around having the virus or giving it to someone else which prevents you from working, even if you don’t have physical symptoms. The same reasons could be used for a claim for contributory ESA.
If you can’t self-certify that you are unable to work, but you know you have Covid, you should do everything you can to not spread the virus to other people. Always wear a mask, avoid public transport, keep away from colleagues or fellow workers, and do not eat or socialise with others. If you explain to them that you have Covid but have no choice but to go to work, they will probably thank you for being as responsible as you can.
This is free information from the BuDS Disability Information Service. Our expert researchers make sure we only give you accurate, reliable and tested information. This post was written by Meiyang J.
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