I have been contacted by Test and Trace: am I eligible for SSP?

Published on 16 June 2020

Under the test and trace system that launched on 28 May, a person who has been notified that they have had contact with a person with coronavirus is to self-isolate for 14 days. The rules relating to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) have been amended to include employees who are self-isolating in these circumstances.

Image of letters spelling trace track and isolate
(c) Shutterstock / Josie Elias

The NHS test and trace service:

  • ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus, and also includes targeted asymptomatic testing of NHS and social care staff and care home residents
  • helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus

If you are contacted by the NHS test and trace service or another public body, you will be told to begin self-isolation for 14 days from your last contact with the person who has tested positive.

If you have been working from home and are still in work (that is, you are not furloughed), you should speak to your employer to discuss if it is practical for you to continue work from home during your period of isolation (assuming you remain well enough to do this). You should receive full pay, as normal, if you do this.

If this does not apply and your employer does not have a company sick pay scheme, then under new laws from 28 May 2020, you may be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for every day you are in isolation (so from day 1), as long as you meet the eligibility conditions. This is the case whether or not you go on to develop symptoms.

⚠️ Note that the wording of the new laws do not cover a claim for SSP if you are asked to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the UK from abroad.

Eligibility conditions

SSP (currently £95.85 per week) is available for people who are 'employed earners' (basically those who are working for an employer who has a liability to pay National Insurance for them) and who earn an average of at least £120 per week (guidance to help monthly paid workers convert their earnings to weekly pay is on GOV.UK).

The earnings taken into account are broadly the average weekly earnings for the prior eight weeks. Where you have not yet been in the employment for 8 weeks, SSP is worked out by reference to the amount of pay you are due to be paid under your employment contract.

People who earn less than £120 per week or who are self-employed (including those treated as self-employed for tax purposes by their engager) are not entitled to SSP.

Although one of the eligibility conditions is that you must self-isolate for at least 4 days, this should easily be met, given the 14-day instruction that will be given to you by the test and trace service.

Some points to note about eligibility

  • You cannot amalgamate earnings over two or more jobs to see if you meet the limit (unless those jobs are with the same employer). On the other hand, if you have two or more jobs and earn at least £120 in both you can get SSP from both employers.
     
  • To qualify for SSP you must have done some work under your contract (even if this is just a few hours' worth). This means that if you are in a new job you may qualify for SSP even if you have not been paid yet.
     
  • Zero hours contract workers who pay their tax and NIC under PAYE may qualify, provided they have done some work under their contract. Zero hours contract workers who have not yet done any work under their contract, will not be entitled to SSP.
     
  • Part-time workers who earn at least £120 per week, qualify for SSP at the normal full weekly rate – they do not receive a pro rata amount. So, someone who is self isolating for two weeks and who normally works five days a week should get £191.70 in total. Someone who is self isolating for two weeks and who normally works three days a week should also get £191.70 in total.
     
  • People already receiving statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance or those who are receiving 'furlough' pay (see below), cannot additionally get SSP.
     
  • In the first instance, you should ask your employer for SSP if you think you are entitled to it (agency workers should ask their agency, unless they work through an umbrella company, in which case they should ask their umbrella company). The NHS test and trace service will provide a notification that can be used as evidence that you have been told to self-isolate but please remember that for the first seven days off work, you can self-certify, so you do not need any evidence for your employer.
     
  • If you think that SSP is due but your employer has refused to pay it, contact the HMRC statutory payment dispute team on 03000 560 630.

How long will I receive SSP for?

SSP usually stops once an employee returns to work or their contract ends (whatever comes first). If you are an agency worker with less than three months continuous employment, any SSP entitlement will continue to the end of any assignment you had agreed to work, rather than in line with the normal rules.

If you have recently received SSP because of the coronavirus (or for any other reason) and are now receiving it again, then this period must be 'linked' with the previous period (even if the sickness is not related) if it is within 8 weeks of the last period of sickness and each period has lasted for at least 4 days.

You should be aware that there is a limit of 28 weeks SSP in any one period of sickness, including in a linked period. So, if you have already received 28 weeks of SSP and the current period of illness is linked to the last period, then no further SSP is due.

You may no longer be eligible for SSP if you have a continuous series of linked periods of absence that lasts more than three years, even if you haven’t been paid 28 weeks' worth of SSP.

What if I don’t qualify for SSP?

If you do not qualify for SSP, or if SSP is too little for you to live on, you can ask your employer if it is possible for you to take some paid holiday for the time you are off work (although you should remember that the purpose of paid leave is for you to rest, relax and enjoy leisure time – which you may not be able to do if you go on to develop coronavirus and become ill).

If the fact you have been contacted by the test and trace service is the only reason for you not being able to work, it is probably not appropriate to ask your employer to furlough you while you are in self isolation as the furlough system is not really intended for short term periods off work.

Indeed, prior to 30 June, there was a 3 week minimum furlough period. From 1 July, this is no longer the case, however in order to be eligible to be furloughed for any period from 1 July onwards, you need to have been previously furloughed for at least a 3 week period between 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.

If you were already earmarked to be furloughed for business reasons, and then totally coincidentally you are asked to self-isolate, then your employer can still furlough you and pay you furlough pay instead of SSP (provided your furlough pay is at least the rate of SSP).

If you are already on furlough leave when you are contacted by the test and trace service, you should discuss with your employer whether it is best for you to be kept on furlough or moved over to SSP – there seems to be some flexibility here (although you can't receive both at the same time). One consideration perhaps is that employers are required to pay SSP themselves, although may qualify for a rebate for up to 2 weeks of SSP. If employers keep a 'sick' furloughed employee on furlough, they remain eligible to claim at least a proportion for these costs through the furlough scheme

Further information

GOV.UK has further information as follows:

Statutory Sick Pay rules for employees – including the other circumstances related to the coronavirus you can claim it in

Guidance on the rules in complex or unusual situations

General guidance and support for employees during the coronavirus outbreak

If you need to access financial support through the benefits system for the time you are off work, you can find more information on our website.

Contact: Meredith McCammond (click here to Contact Us)
(First published: 16-06-20)