Coronavirus - your Johnston Carmichael payroll service and steps you can take

Michael McAllister

Michael McAllister

Director & Head of Payroll Services

During these unprecedented times, I’d like to take the time to reassure our payroll clients that Johnston Carmichael is well prepared; our service delivery teams are geared up and will be delivering payrolls, whatever the future situation with COVID-19 becomes.

What can you do?

There are some steps you as an employer can take in the meantime, to keep things running smoothly:

  1. Ensure you submit payroll data as promptly as possible (this may mean submitting this slightly earlier)
  2. Ensure we have your up to date contact information (including out of hours)
  3. Ensure you approve payroll reports as quickly as possible upon receipt
  4. Consider switching to electronic payslips if your organisation uses hardcopy payslips at the moment (to get this set up, we need a valid email address for each employee)

BACS (Bankers Automated Clearing Services) and payroll banking

We don’t anticipate any issues with the BACS network although we do encourage you to consider submitting files earlier than normal (you can submit files up to 31 days in advance). This will allow both BACS and your sponsoring bank time to administer and process the relevant payments to each member of your team.

Direct Earning Attachment Orders

Direct Earning Attachment Orders (DEA’s) issued by the Department of Work and Pension (DWP) and all debt management collection in relation to other payments of benefits, tax credits and social funds have been suspended for a temporary period. They will not be issuing any new collection notices nor collecting any debt during this time.

Employers who process DEA’s for DWP via their payroll, are advised to suspend all DEA collections and to not set up new orders that may have recently been received. You are not required to speak to an advisor or gain authorisation to action this.

For further guidance or clarification, you can call DWP on 0800 916 0614, selecting option 1 for employers.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and COVID-19

Here’s a snapshot overview of what you need to know:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day one instead of day four for affected individuals.
  • People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor.
    This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence. 
  • Those who are not eligible for SSP, for example the self-employed or people earning below the Lower Earnings Limit of £118 per week, can now more easily make a claim for Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance:
    • For the duration of the outbreak, the requirements of the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor will be temporarily relaxed for those who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating according to government advice, ensuring self-employed claimants will receive support.
    • People will be able to claim Universal Credit and access advance payments upfront without the current requirement to attend a jobcentre if they are advised to self-isolate.
    • Contributory Employment and Support Allowance will be payable, at a rate of £73.10 a week if you are over 25, for eligible people affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating in line with advice from Day 1 of sickness, rather than Day 8.

Support and compensation

HMRC will bring forward legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible - the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note.
  • Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force.
  • The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

We don’t yet have any confirmation on how statutory sick pay will be reclaimed although we will keep all our clients updated as soon as we have an update.

For urgent assistance, please contact your regular payroll contact at