The Scheme was created in April 2020 to assist employers with the rising cost of sick pay as employees took time off work because they had Covid, or they were self-isolating. It closed on 30 September 2021.
However, the emergence of the Omicron variant has seen an increase in cases and therefore an increase in time off from work due to either sickness or self-isolation.
To help employers meet this extra cost, the Scheme re-opened on 21 December 2021 for eligible businesses across the UK; however claims cannot be made until mid-January 2022, when they can be made retrospectively. Employers should ensure they carefully record absence, reasons for absence and accompanying evidence in order to be able to make an accurate claim.
It is worth noting that the recent changes to evidential requirements for absence reporting do not apply where the reason for absence is Covid related, so evidence for Covid related reasons can be requested as normal.
Employers will be eligible for the scheme if:
- They are UK-based
- They employed fewer than 250 employees as of 30 November 2021
- They had a PAYE payroll system as of 30 November 2021
- They have already paid their employees’ Covid-related SSP
Making a claim
This two-week limit will be reset so an employer will be able to claim up to two weeks per employee regardless of whether they have claimed under the previous scheme for that same employee.
The portal will be live from mid-January 2022, but employers can backdate claims for any Covid-related absences beginning on or after 21 December 2021. Whilst this is described as a temporary scheme in government guidance, no end date has been confirmed for when this scheme will close.
The previous scheme
The existing portal closed on 31 December 2021 for any absences prior to 30 September 2021. Employers will not be able to claim for the period from 1 October – 20 December 2021 inclusive as there was no scheme in operation during that time.
Employers must keep the following records for three years from the date they receive payment for their claim:
- The dates the employee was off sick
- Which of those days were qualifying days
- The reason they said they were off work due to Covid (e.g. positive test/isolation instruction)
- The employee’s National Insurance number
Further guidance to be published
Under the previous SSP Rebate scheme, the waiting days were suspended for Covid-related absences to enable employers to pay SSP from the first qualifying day of sickness. It is anticipated that this rule will continue when the scheme re-opens in January 2022, but further guidance is awaited on this point.
The Government has also confirmed that businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England will be eligible for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises. More than £100 million discretionary funding will be made available via the Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) for local authorities to support other businesses, such as those who supply the hospitality and leisure sectors.