March 26, 2020

The UK’s Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise in the UK, the government pushed through emergency legislation in response.

The Coronavirus Bill, emergency legislation that covers a host of topics to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 after quickly moving through parliament.

The Bill aims to support the government, employers, and workers in the following:

  • Increasing the available health and social care workforce
  • Easing the burden on frontline staff
  • Containing and slowing the virus
  • Managing the deceased with respect and dignity
  • Supporting people

Of significance to employers are changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and a potential change to National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

  • Employees who are eligible for SSP will be able to use the benefit on “day one” instead of having to wait several days for the benefit. This is applicable for specified reasons relating to COVID-19, such as a person being diagnosed with the virus or following directions to self-isolate. The changes to SSP are retroactive to 13 March 2020
  • The government will be able to change NICs on a temporary basis without having to follow the usual procedural requirements. This will enable the government, if it determines such action is necessary, to quickly modify NICs

In addition, The UK government announced that small and medium-sized businesses may be entitled to reclaim the costs of SSP for absences due to COVID-19. The proposal is to:

  • Cover up to two (2) weeks of SSP per eligible employee
  • Small and medium-sized businesses are those with fewer than 250 employees, measured from the number of employees as of 28 February 2020
  • The scheme will be retroactive to 13 March 2020

The Coronavirus Bill authorized the HMRC to make regulations and provisions for such reimbursement or refund. The government’s existing systems are not designed to facilitate employer refunds of SPP; as such, a new mechanism will need to be established.

The bill contains a sunset clause that will cause it to expire two (2) years after its passage.

More information about the Coronavirus Bill is available here.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should review with your legal advisors how the laws identified in this post may apply to your specific situation.

Team Ceridian

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