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Figures and Recent News Update: SSP, Family Friendly Leave and Fit Notes
Following the Government’s announcement of the increase to the National Living Wage in its Autumn Budget, the Department for Work and Pensions has now recently published its proposed increase to the Pension and Benefit Rates for 2022/2023. The following rates still need to be confirmed but it is predicted that they will apply from 11 April 2022.
|Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)||£96.35||£99.35|
|Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)||£151.97||£156.66|
|Statutory Paternity Pay (SMP)||£151.97||£156.66|
|Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)||£151.97||£156.66|
|Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)||£151.97||£156.66|
|Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay||£151.97||£156.66|
These payments represent an individual’s statutory entitlement to a week’s pay when receiving one of the above benefits. It will be important for employers to implement this change come April 2022 to ensure compliance. Additionally, as a matter of good practice, employers should be regularly reviewing their policies on sickness absence and pay and family friendly leave. Where employers do not currently have a policy dealing with any of the above, then it is advised that one is implemented to ensure fairness, transparency and equality when dealing with each type of benefit/leave.
To be entitled to these statutory payments, the employee’s average weekly earnings must be equal to or more than the lower weekly earnings limit, which is expected to go up from £120 to £123. In addition, there are notification requirements that must also be complied with to trigger entitlement to receive these sums.
On the 16 December 2021, the Government introduced The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations), which came into force one day later on 17 December 2021. These Regulations introduced a temporary change to the rules on employee self-certification of sickness and incapacity to work. Before the Regulations, employees who were off sick could self-certify for up to 7 days, but the Regulations have now confirmed that employees who are off sick will only need to obtain a ‘fit note’ from their GP after 28 days of sickness. This means employees can now self-certify they are sick for a period of 28 days as opposed to the usual seven days.
These regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland and are meant to only apply from 17 December 2021 to 26 January 2022 (inclusive). This temporary modification of the rules was implemented with the intention to relieve the burden on GPs and to free up their time to focus on rolling out the vaccine booster programme to help combat the effects of the Omicron variant of Covid.
The rules apply to anyone who becomes ill between that period, including the seven days prior to 17 December 2021, so from 10 December 2021. At the moment, the change will not apply to any sickness which begins after 26 January 2022 but will continue to apply to any sickness absence which is ongoing, and which commenced before this date. The Regulations provide a change to the self-certification period of sickness only, and all other rules regarding statutory sick pay (SSP), sickness and self-certification continue to apply. Employers should continue to ensure that they comply with the terms of their sickness absence policy subject to the temporary change implemented by these Regulations. For this temporary period, employers should only request a GP fit note from an employee if they remain off sick for a period of 28 days or more (including weekends and bank holidays).
This is intended to be a short-term measure, but some commentators have suggested that, in time, the provision may be extended beyond that date on the basis that SSP is in the main covered by the employer and not the state anymore. As usual we will keep an eye on the matter and update you should further amendments be made to the Regulations.
As 2021 draws to an end, it only remains for us to thank you for your support and wish you all the best for 2022, both personally and professionally. We hope that you will all manage a relaxing break and look forward to keeping you up to date on any changes to the wonderful world of employment law or seeing you at or on one of our seminars, in the coming year.