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Coronavirus Act 2020 – Changes to Statutory Sick Pay

Coronavirus Act 2020

Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent yesterday 25 March 2020.  It confirms some of the announcements that were made last week regarding payment of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in relation to Coronavirus.  The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force on 13 March 2020 and amended the SSP rules such that those who self isolate are deemed incapable of work for the purposes of claiming SSP.  The Coronavirus Act gives the government power to make regulations which have retrospective effect such that SSP is payable from the first day of absence in such cases (rather than from day four).

The Act also confirms that coronavirus related SSP paid by an Employer will be reimbursed by the state.

Emergency Volunteering Leave

The Act also introduces “emergency volunteering leave” (“EVL”) allowing workers to leave their main job and volunteer temporarily in the NHS or social care sector, by giving their employer three working day’s notice and producing a certificate from an appropriate authority such as a local authority or an NHS Commissioning Board or the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

The period of leave must be either two, three or four weeks and there is no provision for employers to refuse leave. Only one period of leave can be taken in each “volunteering period”.  Initially there is one 16 week volunteering period but there may be others announced in due course.  There is no obligation on employers to pay wages during EVL but all other terms and conditions of the employment contract continue to apply. A scheme is to be devised to pay compensation to volunteers in respect of loss of earnings and travel and subsistence expenses during the period that they volunteer.  As with most things, the detail is still to be worked out.

New sections 47H and section 104H have been inserted into the Employment Rights Act 1996 making it unlawful to subject a worker to a detriment for having taken or sought to take emergency volunteering leave and it will also be automatically unfair to dismiss and employee for the same reason.

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