Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme Re-opened

The UK Government initially launched the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) in March 2020  to help employers with recovery from the pandemic. This “old” scheme ended on 30 September 2021 and the portal for submitting claims under the old scheme closed on 31 December 2021 for any absences until 30 September 2021. There are no SSP reclaim options for the period from 1 October – 20 December 2021 inclusive.

However, Rishi Sunak announced the reintroduction of the SSPRS on 21 December 2021 as part of a £1bn support package for businesses impacted by the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The re-opening of the Scheme covers Covid-related sickness absences occurring from 21 December 2021. The portal for reclaiming will launch in mid-January 2022 but claims can be backdated for any absence beginning on or after 21 December 2021. This portal can be accessed through the government website (gov.uk) with a Government Gateway User ID – this should have been provided upon registration to PAYE Online.

The Scheme covers the cost of 2 weeks’ SSP per employee for Covid-related absences to employers with fewer than 250 employees; for example, for employees who tested positive for Covid or were instructed to self-isolate. It does not allow recovery for any SSP paid for non-coronavirus related absence. To be eligible, employers must be based in the UK; employed fewer than 250 employees as of 30 November 2021; had a PAYE payroll scheme as of 30 November 2021; and have already paid their employee’s Covid-related SSP. It is possible to make a claim under the new scheme for an employee who was previously claimed for under the old scheme. The two-week time limit essentially ‘resets’ in this regard.

Specific eligibility criteria apply to the payment of SSP, including minimum average earnings of £120 per week (increasing to £123 on 6 April 2022) and the requirement to be sick/self-isolating for a minimum period of 4 calendar days (the qualifying days). 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.

HMRC will be undertaking audits of the use of the scheme and take appropriate action to withhold or recover payments which are found to be dishonest or inaccurate. Where employers knowingly and deliberately provide false or misleading information to benefit from the claim, they may face penalties of up to £3,000. As such, organisations must keep records of the dates the employee was off sick; which of these days were qualifying days; the Covid-related reason why they were off work; and the employee’s National Insurance Number. This information must be stored for 3 years from the date that employers receive payment for their claim.

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