21 December 2021 – Rishi Sunak

On 21 December 2021, Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a £1bn fund to help businesses hit by the significant rise in COVID cases:

  • Restaurants, bars, cinemas and theatres will be eligible (in the coming weeks) to apply for a one-off grant of up to 6,000 for each of their premises.
  • £100million will be made available for local authorities to support other businesses.
  • £30million will be made available through the Culture Recovery Fund to support organisations such as theatres, orchestras and museums through the winter to March 2022.
  • The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) has been reintroduced – this means that businesses with fewer than 250 employees can claim money to cover sick pay for employees (up to two weeks per employee) who are affected by COVID.  Firms will be eligible for the scheme from today and they will be able to make claims retrospectively from mid-January.

These measures will come into place in addition to the existing business support already available.

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS)

An employer can claim back up to two weeks sick pay per employer if:

  • They have already paid that employee’s sick pay
  • They are claiming for an employee who is eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
  • They have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
  • They had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020

Employees do not have to provide a doctor’s fit note in order for the employer to be able to make a claim; however, the employer can ask the employee to provide an isolation note from NHS 111 or a ‘shielding note’ from their doctor or health authority.

The rebate scheme is also available for employees on agency contracts, flexible and zero hour contracts and fixed term contracts (as well as full time and part time employees).

Changes to sickness certification

The number of days over which employees are not required to provide medical evidence of sickness absence for SSP purposes extended from 7 to 28 days.

A new regulation came into force on 17th December 2021 in relation to the number of days over which employees are not required to provide medical evidence of sickness absence for statutory sick pay purposes.

The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021, modifies the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 to increase the period that an employee is not required to provide medical information in respect of any spell of incapacity for work from 7 to 28 days.

The new regulations say that the modified time limit applies to periods of sickness that start during the period 17th December 2021 to 26th January 2022 or which commence prior to the regulations coming into force but which have not lasted more than seven days on that date (as the requirement to provide medical evidence will not have arisen at that point).

The government has said that this regulation has been introduced to free up GP capacity to support the coronavirus vaccine booster programme.


Laura Kelleher, Solicitor

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