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Consult HR: Covid-19 Update for Employers

This update has been provided by Julie Pollock of Consult HR. For further information and to contact Julie, email: [email protected]

Statutory Sick Pay For Covid Related Absences

  1. The Coronavirus Act 2020 was for 2 years and expired on 24th  March 2022. England confirmed that they do not intend to extend the special provisions for SSP beyond 24th March 2022, that is, the three waiting days and the ability to claim SSP from day 1 have now ceased. The NI Dept of Health has asked the UK Secretary of State to extend the ability to pay SSP from day 1 in cases of Covid-19 and this has been agreed.
  2. The payment of SSP from day 1 when someone is sick or self isolating will continue up until 24th September 2022.  So they will not be required to serve the 3 waiting days but they must be off work for 4 days or more to be eligible for SSP from day 1 of their sickness.
  3. All other sickness will come under the normal SSP rules which means the first 3 days of sickness are regarded as waiting days and are unpaid.  It is only at the 4th days of absence the employee is eligible to be paid SSP if they qualify.
  4. Reclaiming SSP – Employers were able to claim up to 2 weeks’ SSP if your employee has been off work because they had COVID-19 or were self isolating. This reclaim scheme has now ceased and the final claims had to be submitted by 24th March 2022.

Test, trace and Protect Transition Plan 24th March 2022 – (www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-test-and-trace-transition-plan)

  • PCR testing will cease from 22nd April for most people with symptoms of the virus. PCR testing will still be available to support those for clinical reasons. The PCR home ordering service will remain available for the general public to support those for whom PCR is recommended.
  • From 22nd April, people with symptoms will be advised to test using Lateral Flow tests instead of booking a PCR. If the test is positive, it is recommended to isolate and use LFD tests to indicate when they can cease isolating which can be as early as 5/6 days after symptoms of commenced or they tested positive. This will be kept under review and could remain in place up to the end of June.
  • During the transition period, the guidance may be amended for most people to remove the need to test if symptomatic.
  • From 22nd April the general public, who are currently advised to regularly test with Lateral flow tests if they have no symptoms, will cease and access to free LFD’s for that purpose will also cease from 22nd April.
  • If you don’t have symptoms, after 22nd April you will only need to take a Lateral Flow Test if you are living in, working in or visiting high risk settings. LFT’s will be available free of charge until the end of June, with a further review then.
  • Publicly accessible Covid-19 testing sites will close from 22nd April.
  • Routine population level Contact Tracing will be phased out between 22nd April and the end of June. During this period contact tracing will continue to manage complex cases, high risk setting and complex outbreaks.

Currently the guidance states those who test positive (even if they have no symptoms) should self isolate for a minimum of 5 days and persons not vaccinated (but identified as close contacts) should isolate for 10 days. All measures will be kept under review in the transition period. When steady state has been reached LFD’s will no longer be advised for most people with symptoms and they will be advised to take appropriate precautions if unwell, for example stay at home and reduce contact.