The workplace has once again been significantly impacted by the recent rapid spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
Consequently, the legislative changes regarding how we live our everyday lives has impacted the workplace. In this article we explain how three key employment law / HR related changes will impact businesses and their employees.
Reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
The government is reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS). This will be a temporary scheme to support employers facing heightened levels of sickness absence due to COVID-19. The SSPRS will refund small and medium-sized employers’ COVID-related SSP costs for up to two weeks per employee. To qualify for the rebate employers must be UK based with fewer than 250 employees and a PAYE payroll system as off 30 November 2021 and must have already paid their employees’ COVID-related SSP.
The two-week limit is 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 employee. Employers can claim for COVID-related sickness absences occurring from 21 December 2021 onwards and will be able to make a claim through HMRC from mid-January onwards, using this website.
This is a temporary scheme to support employers facing heightened levels of sickness absence due to COVID-19. The government will keep the duration of the scheme under review.
Statutory Sick Pay Temporary Rule Change
A temporary change to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules, made on 16 December 2021, means that from 17 December 2021 to 26 January 2022 employees shall not be required to provide medical information in respect of the first 28 days of any spell of incapacity for work.
Under the Medical Evidence Regulations 1985, employers cannot require an employee to provide medical evidence, which can be in the form of a fit note from a GP, within the first seven days of their sickness absence but can do so thereafter. The increase from seven days to 28 days is intended to increase GP capacity to support the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme by reducing the need for employees to visit their GP for medical evidence for the purposes of statutory sick pay.
The modification is limited to spells of incapacity for work which either start during the period 17 December 2021 to 26 January 2022 or which commence prior to 17 December 2021 but which have not lasted more than seven days on that date (so that the requirement to provide medical evidence has not yet arisen). The modification will not apply to spells of incapacity which begin after 26 January 2022 but will continue to apply to any spell of incapacity (other than those commencing more than seven days prior to 17 December 2021) which is ongoing, having commenced prior to 26 January 2022.
Fines for Wales Employees Not Working from Home
From 20 December employees in Wales must work from home if it is reasonably practicable to do so. In considering reasonable measures to limit the spread of the virus employers must allow or require employees to work from home.
Employers should be as flexible as possible and make adjustments to ensure staff are able to work from home wherever that is possible. This may include issuing staff with laptops or mobile phones and facilitating communication with all.
Under The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 failing to work from home where it is reasonably practicable to do so is punishable on summary conviction by a fine. A Fixed Penalty Notice of £60 applies to workers, but employers could also be fined £1,000 for each staff member travelling to work unnecessarily.
For further advice regarding Employment Law / HR or to discuss specific related issues, please get in touch with our friendly team.