Statutory Sick Pay & HMRC time to pay arrangements during Coronavirus outbreak

During the current Coronavirus outbreak with have updated some guidance on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and time to pay arrangements for HMRC.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

While we can’t give employment law advice to our clients, we have summarised below the obligations:

Normally SSP is payable only after an employee has been off sick for four consecutive days and they earn at least £118 per week before tax.

Following the Chancellor's announcement in the Budget on 11 March, employees who earn at least £118 per week are now temporarily entitled to SSP from the first day of any sickness absence.

Under the temporary measures, an employee must be paid any SSP due to them if they are required to self-isolate because: 

  • They have coronavirus
  • They have coronavirus symptoms, for example, a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • Someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • They've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
Employers should not overlook the fact they may have obligations under their employees’ contracts to pay more than the standard rate of SSP (currently £94.25.)
For employers with less than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020, the government will provide for refunds of SSP claimed by employees affected by Coronavirus for a period of up to 14 days.
Time to pay
All business and self-employed people may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs via HMRC’s Time To Pay service.  HMRC will deal with each request on a case by case basis and have put additional resources into the service with an additional 2,000 call handlers.
Any business concerned about being able to pay their tax on time should contact the Time To Pay helpline on 0800 0159 559.
HMRC are generally far more understanding about issues when they are raised before any tax falls due, so if you have any concerns we would strongly recommend calling the HMRC number to see what support may be available before the due date of any tax bill you are concerned about.
Anecdotally HMRC is taking a relatively generous approach in the case of time to pay arrangements related to the Coronavirus outbreak.  It is important to remember however that HMRC will generally expect a realistic timescale for any tax to be paid. 
HMRC have announced that they will be adjusting their interest rates on late paid tax to take into account the first cut in the Bank of England base rate to 0.25%. The current rate is 3.25% - given the 0.5% reduction in the base rate it may reasonably be assumed the HMRC rate will reduce by a similar amount, but as any changes will only be effective from 30 March 2020 (23 March for corporation tax quarterly payments) the actual rate has not yet been confirmed.
It seems likely HMRC may further revise their rates yet further given the more recent cut in the Bank of England base rate to 0.1%.
If you have any questions, please speak to your usual service delivery Manager at Whittingham Riddell or visit our contact us page here.

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