More than 1.3 million sick days claimed in July

More than 1.3 million working days have been claimed for in just over one month of the Coronavirus Sick Pay Scheme – yet the vast majority of SMEs are ignorant of the scheme, according to research by UHY Hacker Young.

It allows SMEs to claim money from the government for any employee who has taken time off work with coronavirus symptoms, or is unable to work from home while self-isolating or shielding someone they live with. The scheme is only available for employers with 250 or fewer employees.

Some 47,500 SMEs each claimed financial support from the government during the first 36 days of the Coronavirus Sick Pay Scheme. The total amount paid out by HMRC under the scheme by 30 June was £25.4m.

Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay entitles an employee to £95.85 a week for a maximum of two weeks.

But UHY Hacker Young’s research also found that only 3% of SMEs in the UK eligible have applied to use the scheme.

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay scheme is wider ranging than normal statutory sick pay. This is because it does not just apply to employees who are ill but also those who cannot come into work as a result of someone else being ill.

John Sheehan, partner at the firm’s Letchworth office, said: “SMEs have been under serious pressure and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay scheme has been another layer of very welcome relief.

“Unfortunately, the scheme appears very underused in the first month of its existence. Many businesses we speak to are unaware of the scheme and only a tiny fraction of eligible businesses have actually used it.”

He added: “Whilst almost all businesses know about the flagship furlough scheme, better understanding of coronavirus sick pay in the SME sector is needed. Greater government communication about it and how it works will help improve take-up.”

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