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Miscellaneous Amendments Relating To Statutory Sick Pay

Volume 77: debated on Thursday 18 April 1985

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'The enactments specified in Schedule [Miscellaneous amendments relating to statutory sick pay] shall have effect subject to the amendments there specified.'.—[Mr.Whitney.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this new clause it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 24, 105 and 106.

This new clause gives effect to the new schedule on miscellaneous amendments relating to statutory sick pay. If it is for the convenience of the House, I will refer briefly to the proposals in the new schedule, but, if the House wishes, I will go into more detail. The proposals are no more than a tidying-up operation to correct defects or ambiguities which have been identified in the existing legislation.

Paragraph 1 of the proposed schedule provides for an amendment to be made to the Attachment of Earnings Act 1971 so that payments of statutory sick pay are treated as earnings for the purpose of that Act. Paragraph 2 closes a technical loophole whereby we might have been unable properly to determine the date of maternity allowance claims. Paragraph 3 brings severe disablement allowance into line with contributory sickness and invalidity benefit by providing that the allowance cannot be paid at the same time as statutory sick pay.

Paragraph 4 relates to a possible ambiguity in section 3(6) of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982 relating to the linking period. As presently drafted, it creates the possibility of uncertainty about the liability of a new employer to pay for any period of sickness before the effective date of employment. Our proposal puts beyond doubt that in these circumstances the period of entitlement begins with the first day of incapacity in the currency of that employment contract.

Paragraph 5 relates to the repeal of provisions regarding overpayments. When we introduced the statutory sick pay scheme it was intended that regulations would be laid to enable overpaid state incapacity benefits to be recovered from statutory sick pay, and vice versa, if payments under one scheme were erroneously paid because entitlement was properly due under the other scheme. However, legislating for that concept proved too complicated and in the event it was decided that employers would be responsible for recovering the statutory sick pay they had overpaid, and that the Department would apply existing rights of recovery of state benefits if incapacity benefit had been paid when statutory sick pay was payable instead. The provisions in the 1982 Act have, therefore, been made redundant and it is desirable that they should be repealed.

Paragraph 6 relates to the definition of an employer. One consequence of the present definition is that it has brought into SSP people who come to work in Great Britain but who technically remain non-residents either in Great Britain or in a member state of the EC. There is no liability for national insurance contributions by or in respect of such employees for the first 52 weeks of their stay in Britain. It was never intended that such people would be entitled to SSP. Amendment No. 24 will restore what was intended.

The other two amendments are consequential. As I have said, this is a tidying-up operation to correct defects and ambiguities in the current legislation.

I wish to make only one brief comment since we recognise that these are technical and tidying-up amendments. I note with interest that the Minister is dealing with the recovery of overpayment of statutory sick pay, but I note with sorrow that it has still not proved possible for the Government to do anything about people whose SSP has been underpaid and who have to take their own cases to court if they want to get the money.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.