Budget 2020: COVID-19 measures and the HR implications

Rishi Sunak, announced his first ever Budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer today (11/03/20) where he outlined that all workers advised to self-isolate will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), self-employed or gig economy workers will find it easier to access benefits. Also, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will have SSP for their employees refunded by the Government for up to 14 days.

The first thing Mr Sunak made clear was that the NHS will receive whatever extra resources it needs. Secondly, if people fall ill or cannot work, SSP will be available to all those who self-isolate.

As “there is likely to be a disruption to our economy” due to COVID-19 as Mr Sunak said he is unveiling a £30 billion package to help the economy.  There will be a £500 million hardship fund which will be used to support local communities affected by the virus.

There will also be £7 billion committed to protect and support small businesses to tackle COVID-19 disruption.

Mr Sunak is also removing the minimum income floor for Universal Credit. Banks will offer coronavirus loans which the Government will offer to pay 80 per cent of it if the loan defaults. Business rates will also be suspended for a year for small businesses in retail, leisure and hospitality.

Mr Sunak said:

We are doing everything to keep people financially secure. We will get through this together, we will rise to this challenge.

Andrew Neil, political reporter at the BBC said:

This will result in a huge amount of borrowing, it is far removed from the austerity budgets we are use to.

Stephen Ratcliffe, a partner in the employment practice at Baker McKenzie said:

Gig economy workers still won’t be entitled to statutory sick pay, but will be able to access Universal Credit.

Practically, the changes will make managing self-isolation and sickness absence easier for all employers as employees will be able to obtain a certificate from NHS 111 confirming that they must self-isolate.”

The financial support for small businesses is welcome, but for employees, statutory sick pay will be a fraction of many people’s usual wage so employees will still be under financial pressures.  The government has previously said that it is good practice, to pay over and above statutory sick pay rates if that is the employer’s usual policy.

John Ellmore, director of Know Your Money, a comparison site said:

The Government’s move to support the self-employed offers some much needed assurance to those that make up the expanding gig economy. What’s more, emergency support to help businesses implement self-isolation measures is welcoming.

In relation to IR35, it was not mentioned during Mr Sunak’s Budget speech, however, the rollout of IR35 was confirmed for the 06/04/20 in an official Budget document on page 88.

Dave Chaplin, CEO and founder of ContractorCalculator  and IR35 shield said:

Today’s news on Off-Payroll is exceptionally disappointing and demonstrates a tin-eared approach has been taken by the Chancellor.

Already we are seeing firms unfairly classify self-employed workers as ‘deemed employees’ which means they are taxed as employees, but yet receive none of the rights of employment.

On 09/03/20 it was announced prior to the Budget that parents of premature babies will be able to claim an extra £160 a week, for a maximum of 12 weeks whilst the baby is in neonatal care.