More than 1.3 million working days have been claimed for in just over one month of the Coronavirus Sick Pay scheme, according to UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group.
The scheme allows SMEs to claim money from the Government for any employee who has taken time off work with symptoms, or is unable to work from home whilst self-isolating or shielding someone they live with. The scheme is only available for employers with 250 or fewer employees.
UHY Hacker Young says that 47,500 SMEs each claimed financial support from the government during the first 36 days of the scheme. The total amount paid out by HMRC under the scheme by June 30 was £25.4 million.
Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay entitles an employee to £95.85 a week for a maximum of two weeks. UHY Hacker Young says only three per cent of eligible SMEs have applied to use it.
The firm adds that the Government may need to promote the scheme further to ensure that it reaches all eligible businesses that can claim financial support.
It notes that the scheme is wider ranging than normal statutory sick pay. This is because it also applies to employees who cannot come into work as a result of someone else being ill. And it warns that businesses need to be aware of the consequences of misusing the scheme and understand the record-keeping requirements.
HMRC is expected to be aggressive in pursuing fraud-related to other schemes set up to help businesses through the pandemic – most notably furlough.
The firm says that HMRC’s attention is likely to turn to claims under the Coronavirus Sick Pay scheme in the months ahead.
Partner John Sheehan says: “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.”
“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.”