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Returning sick pay rebate offers relief for UK businesses

When an employer covers Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
for an employee, this isn’t usually recoverable. However, the UK government ran a Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) until 30th September 2021 to allow small/medium businesses to claim back SSP for employee absences due to COVID-19.

Following the spread of the Omicron variant in December, the government is reintroducing the SSPR Scheme from 21st December 2021. Employers can submit retrospective claims from January 2022.

If you’re an employer with a small to medium business and the Omicron wave caused your staff to take sick leave during this time, read on to find out if you’re eligible for a Statutory Sick Pay rebate.

What does the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme cover?

When small-to-medium employers face higher than usual levels of staff sickness due to the spread of COVID-19, they can claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee. While standard SSP only applies from the fourth qualifying day off, the scheme will pay from the employee’s first qualifying day off.

A ‘qualifying day’ is a day which the employee was scheduled to work on, but they had to call in sick for coronavirus-related reasons. If an employee was off sick from 21st December 2021 due to having COVID-19 or self-isolating under NHS guidance, you can reclaim the employee’s SSP through HMRC.

If a COVID-related absence began before 21st December 2021, unfortunately, you can only claim for the period of sick leave from this date onwards. The SSP rate is currently £96.35 per week, meaning you could claim back almost £200 per employee for every COVID absence lasting up to two weeks.

Even if you already claimed an SSP rebate for a specific employee under the previous scheme, you can make a fresh claim for the same employee under the new scheme if their absence qualifies. It’s possible to make multiple claims for the same employee, but only for a collective total of two weeks.

Which employers qualify for the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme?

To be able to claim a Statutory Sick Pay rebate, you must be a UK-based employer with no more than 250 employees on 30th November 2021. You must also have a working PAYE system in place on or before this date. Even if you have less than 250 employees, the maximum number you can claim an SSP rebate for is the exact amount under your employment on 30th November 2021.

You can only claim for staff absences due to COVID-19 from 21st December 2021 onwards. Claims can only be for a maximum of two weeks, even if the employee was off work for longer than this. You must have already paid the absent employee their SSP before you can attempt to claim it back.

The SSPR Scheme includes all kinds of employment contracts, including full-time, part-time, flexible or fixed term, and casual agency workers. However, self-employed people cannot use the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. Employees still need to self-isolate for four days to be eligible for SSP, but if COVID is the reason for their claim, then they should also be paid for those four qualifying days.

How can businesses claim a Statutory Sick Pay Rebate?

Eligible employers can make retrospective SSP rebate claims from 14th January 2022 after paying SSP to their employees on sick leave due to COVID. When you make a valid online claim, you should receive the SSP refund within six working days. An authorised PAYE agent can manage this for you.

To submit an SSPR claim, you’ll need the Government Gateway ID for your PAYE Online account. The information you’ll be required to submit includes

  • Number of employees you’re claiming for
  • Start and end dates of the claim period
  • Total amount of SSP you’re reclaiming
  • Employer PAYE reference number
  • Contact details and bank information

The claim date must be on or before the date that you paid the SSP, as the scheme works based on arrears. Claim periods can overlap if you have to apply multiple times. Since employees can currently self-certify for up to 28 days, you won’t need a ‘fit note’ for them to prove that they have COVID-19.

To comply with the SSPR Scheme, you must keep records of your SSP rebate claims for three years from the date of payment. Your records must include the dates of employee absence, which were qualifying days, their National Insurance Number, and their COVID-related reason for being off sick.

You can keep these records however you like, whether they’re stored digitally or printed on paper, as long as HMRC can access them in the event of a dispute over SSP. Similarly, you’ll need to retain a copy of the state aid declaration from your SSP claim summary until at least 31st December 2024.

When is the deadline for the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme?

It’s important to submit your SSPR Scheme applications
as soon as possible, if you’re eligible, as this is only a temporary scheme. The government has not stated an end date for this round of the service yet, but they are keeping it under review. The previous iteration ran from 13th March 2020 to 30th September 2021, but the new scheme could be closed at any time as soon as legislation is passed.

If you need help with the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, why not use an agent offering payroll services
to take care of PAYE-related issues on your behalf? When you authorise us as a payroll officer, GBAC will make sure all the details are correct and that claims are submitted in good time. Please contact us by calling 01226 298 298 or emailing info@gbac.co.uk to speak to our team.