Chancellor Rishi Sunak has annouced his first budget and, as expected, the coronavirus outbreak has taken centre stage. Kate Shawcross, employment solicitor at Harrison Drury, looks at the measures that affect employers.
Statutory sick pay for all self-isolating employees
The chancellor confirmed in the budget that all eligible employees will be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP), if they choose to self-isolate. This will be the case even if they do not show symptoms. The government is keen to ensure that the spread of the virus is contained; and the hope is that this measure will provide some comfort and encouragement to employees who are advised to stay away from the workplace and remain at home for 14 days.
Refunds of SSP to small businesses
Of course, the cost of making the payments to employees who are not carrying out any work will take its toll on the employers. The chancellor said, “the best way to support people is to protect their jobs – and we do that by supporting our businesses”. The government has therefore agreed to assist businesses with fewer than 250 employees by refunding up to 14 days’ SSP which they have paid out to employees who are off work as a result of coronavirus.
Coronavirus Business Interuption Loan scheme
“Business interruption” loans will be available to businesses affected by coronavirus to assist them in covering the cost of salaries and bills. Loans of up to £1.2m will be available to support small and medium sized enterprises.
Self-employed and those not eligible for SSP
The self-employed and other workers who are not eligible to receive SSP are also afforded some protection in respect of self-isolation, with the chancellor promising to make access to benefits easier and quicker. Those on Contributory Employment Support Allowance will be able to claim from day one, not day eight; and the government is also temporarily removing the minimum income floor in universal credit and relaxing the requirement for anyone to physically attend a jobcentre.
For more information on coronavirus in the workplace, please see our previous blog post on steps you can take to protect your employees from coronavirus.