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    Emergency SSP reforms either a shot in the arm or a shot in the dark

    Emergency SSP reforms either a shot in the arm or a shot in the dark

    To rapturous applause - naturally - our Chancellor delivered a budget packed with big promises today. We can speculate on how it will be afforded another day, but the principle message to employers sweating over (not literally I hope – otherwise please phone 111) the current coronavirus outbreak is that there is financial help out there. £30 billion according to the Chancellor’s announcement to be precise.

    Of course, such reassurance can’t come a moment too soon. The immediate financial outlook is less, shall we say, than Spring-like with The Independent carrying the notably upbeat message ‘Coronavirus will bankrupt more people than it kills’. Good news of sorts I suppose…

    There was initial uncertainty over what the Chancellor’s commitment on sick pay really meant. I must confess that when I first heard news that self-isolating employees were to be guaranteed SSP from day one, my heart sank. How could the Government be so irresponsible to give every employee in the country a financial incentive to self-isolate only to return to work and perhaps contract the real virus at a later date?

    The devil presumably is in the detail, and I note that the provision is now being reported as applying to those ‘advised’ to self-isolate. The lawyer in me inevitably fires questions at this, and I am less than reassured that some staff with a sniffle and a call to 111 will not consider this an opportunity:

    “What are your symptoms, caller?”

    “I’m feeling under the weather and think I might be coming down with a cough.”

    “Have you been to a Category 1 or 2 country over the last 14 days?”


    “Have you been in contact with anyone who might have been?”

    “Well, I was on the Heathrow Express two days ago and my uncle has recently arrived back from Singapore.”

    You get the idea, but here is the rub. The Government is in an impossible situation - damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. The poor (figuratively and possibly factually) employer in the meantime has to live with the consequences. Here’s hoping that the range of measures can provide adequate support to businesses struggling after the last 3 years and that we see those promised Sunny Uplands soon.

    In the meantime, wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face and sneeze into your elbow if you don’t possess a tissue. At least the suppliers of loo rolls and hand sanitizer are booming.

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