Statutory reimbursement of sick pay for absences related to the coronavirus
the project’s objectives
The statutory scheme for the reimbursement of sickness benefits (SSPRS) was a temporary measure to help employers facing disproportionate levels of sickness absence from their employees due to Covid-19. Small and medium-sized employers were able to claim up to two weeks of statutory sick pay (SSP) paid to employees who have taken sick leave related to Covid-19. This included employees who tested positive for the virus, as well as those self-isolating in accordance with government public health guidelines.
The government announced the first SSPRS in the Spring 2020 budget, supporting employers who had fewer than 250 employees. The program opened for new applications on May 26, 2020 and closed on September 30, 2021, when levels of illness and self-isolation were low, and at the same time as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
On December 21, 2021, as part of the support system for companies impacted by Omicron, the SSPRS has been reintroduced for employers with less than 250 employees. Eligible employers were again able to claim up to two weeks of SSP per employee for Covid-related absences. The HMRC The claims system was opened on January 19, 2022 and employers had until March 24 to claim absences that occurred between December 21, 2021 and March 17, 2022.
This Equal Selection Impact Assessment relates to the operational implementation of the above policy.
Customer groups affected
All PAID up to a total of 249 employees per employer.
What customers should do
What customers needed to do as a result of the change
Employers had to access a standalone digital service (making sure they had government gateway credentials), or, if registered as digitally excluded with HMRCcall HMRC contact center to complete the application (manual process).
How customers accessed this service
Employers had to access the service via the Internet to confirm their eligibility. If they were registered as excluded from digital, they could call HMRC to complete their application using the manual process.
When customers needed it
The deadline for submitting applications was December 31, 2021 for the original scheme. The second scheme closed on March 17, 2022, with one week for employers to make retroactive claims until March 24, 2022.
Prior to the start of the programme, we assessed the equality impacts on all protected characteristic groups in accordance with the Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duty and Section 75 of the North Ireland :
- racial groups
- sex change
- sexual orientation
- pregnancy and motherhood
- marriage and civil partnership
- people with dependents and those without
- political opinion (only for Northern Ireland)
There is no evidence to suggest specific impacts on these customers within any of the protected feature groups (listed above).
The following equality impacts have been identified:
Disabled and non-disabled
Impact on customers
Consideration should be given to customers who use screen readers to access digital content. Consideration should also be given to potential accessibility issues for customers within this group of protected features.
HMRC offers additional assistance to customers who are deaf or hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.
Digital content can also be provided in a variety of formats, including hard copy, upon request. Available formats include braille, audio, and large print. There is also a zoom feature to increase and decrease the font size of online content.
Government Digital Service (SMD) evaluate and approve aspects of HMRCdigital design to ensure it meets accessibility requirements such as the use of screen reader users.
All content on GOV.UK adheres to national and international standards such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
HMRCThe Extra Support Team service is available to customers who are unable, for whatever reason, to interact with HMRC digitally or who need extra support and reassurance.
Impact on customers
Customer information suggests some potential differences in digital access between customers of different age groups.
HMRCThe Extra Support Team service is available to customers who are unable, for whatever reason, to interact with HMRC digitally or who need extra support and reassurance. Channel switching strategies consider the impact of age on digital capability so that access to alternative services is maintained for customers who choose not to interact digitally.
Religion or belief
Impact on customers
The intrinsic values of certain religions, such as Judaism (Sabbath) and Islam (Ramadan) limit the times of the day or week when customers of this group can interact with HMRC Services.
Some religious groups, such as the Plymouth Brethren, follow rules related to computer use which may affect access to digital services.
The digital offer offered people in this group the choice of using it outside of conventional office hours to meet their needs. A manual process was also in place for employers who are registered with HMRC as numerically excluded.
Officers could claim on behalf of employers.
People who use different languages (including Welsh and British Sign Language)
Impact on customers
The population consists of a wide range of people who use different languages, including the Welsh language and British Sign Language. Communication in English may not always suit this group.
Existing forms impacted by SSP CVN-19 (The COVID 19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Program) have been modified. All new forms for employers or articles created by it have been made available in English and Welsh via GOV.UK. These were also available in alternate formats upon request.
HMRC works with groups such as the Royal Association for Deaf people (GDR) to co-develop support materials for people who do not use English as their first language (including British Sign Language) to explain how to communicate with HMRC using digital services.
Opportunities to promote equalities
We considered the possibilities of promoting equality and good relations between people belonging to each of the protected characteristic groups and those who do not belong to this group.
The following opportunities have been identified:
HMRC‘s needs an enhanced help desk to provide support, engagement and build trust for customers who interact with HMRC to level the playing field for people of different age groups and digital awareness.
A full equality impact assessment is not recommended.