Reforms to Statutory Sick Pay
SSP provides financial support to an employee when they are off work sick. Those on low pay may be able to receive additional help through the welfare system, depending on their personal circumstances. You may be aware that my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions have run a consultation containing a number of proposals aiming to reduce ill health-related job loss and support disabled people and those with health conditions to stay in and thrive in work. This includes proposals to reform SSP. A response to the consultation will be published in due course and I look forward to reading this. I would add that SSP is the legal minimum and many employees do receive more than this.
Thank you for making me aware of Mind's important campaign on reforming SSP. As I mentioned, DWP Ministers are exploring reforms to ensure SSP supports employees who need it. Proposals include allowing the system to better accommodate phased returns, widening eligibility for SSP to those on the lowest incomes, and introducing measures to increase compliance. I eagerly await the Government’s response.
SSP is now payable from the first day of sickness absence (as opposed to day four) where an individual is sick, self-isolating or shielding due to COVID-19. Eligibility has also been extended to those told to self-isolate due to a member of a household (including linked or extended household) displaying symptoms, or testing positive for COVID19, having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, or before being admitted to hospital prior to planned or elective surgery. These measures are in place to ensure that everyone is supported to do the right thing.
It is important to add that SSP is only one form of the wider support offer to support people in times of need. Where an employee’s income is reduced while off sick and they require further financial support, they may be able to claim Universal Credit, as well as the new style Employment and Support Allowance.
£20 Uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits
As I am sure you are aware, this extra support was announced by the Chancellor as a temporary measure in March 2020 to support those facing the most financial disruption as a result of the public health emergency. The Government has also introduced measures such as mortgage holidays, additional support for renters and has worked with energy suppliers to protect those struggling with energy bills to support those who need it most.
It is right that we wait for more clarity on the national economic and social picture before assessing the best way to support low income families moving forward. The uplift is one of a range of measures which have been put in place to support jobs and livelihoods as part of a £280 billion package.
As I understand the situation, the statutory annual review of benefits does not include the need for a decision on the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits. Under the existing arrangements, the uplifts remain in place until the end of March. I am assured, however, that the Government will continue to assess how best to support low-income families in the economic and health context, and that decisions on the future of the uplift will be made later in 2021.
I know my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions remain focused on supporting people by helping them get back into work through the Government’s Plan for Jobs. This includes launching the Kickstart Scheme, which is backed by a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of new, fully funded jobs for young people.
I will, however, pass the concerns you have raised with me on to ministers as they consider future policy.
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