Alongside the decision to end all the remaining legal Covid restrictions in England last month, the government also announced that changes made to statutory sick pay (SSP) rules during the pandemic would also come to an end as part of its ‘Living with Covid’ plan.

As of 24 March, individuals with Covid will no longer be eligible for SSP from day one of their illness and will only receive the payment on their fourth consecutive day off work – in line with the normal SSP rules.

Small- and medium-sized employers will also only have until today to submit claims to the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, which itself closed on 17 March, while the government’s £500 self-isolation payments for low earners were phased out on 24 February – the same day that legal self-isolation requirements ended in England.
For, employers who benefited from the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, which allowed firms with fewer than 250 employees to claim back two weeks’ worth of SSP for employees absent because of Covid, will likely miss the additional support.

Employers should consider the impact the changes might have on staff, “particularly in relation to their mental health and emotional wellbeing during times of financial turmoil.

Employees who are already struggling with rising household bills and the impact of inflation may feel more stress, anxiety or burnout.

It is possible that these changes could lead to more members of staff attending work with Covid because they can’t afford to take time off unpaid. Taken together with the end of the £500 self-isolation payments, those earning minimum wage and other lower-income workers are set to be disproportionately affected,

Employers still have a duty of care for their employees’ health and wellbeing, and they should not against encourage anyone to attend work if they are unwell, whether with Covid or any other illness.

Employers may need to consider the introduction of an enhanced sick pay scheme to encourage people who are genuinely unwell to stay home and avoid affecting others. I can help by preparing accompany sick pay policy for you to consider if one is not already in place.