What is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
By law, employers are obliged to pay employees even when they’re ill and can’t make it to work. This payment technically receives the name of “statutory sick pay” and should be done on a normal payday, as if the employee were still attending.
Usually, companies lay out a sick pay scheme in their employee’s contracts, overruling the provisions contained in the law. But, in the absence of an internal sick pay policy, employees would still receive minimum sick pay protection.
Unless the company scheme states otherwise, an employee will only receive a fixed statutory amount, regardless of their normal wages.
A person may ask for SSP if they’re an employee or a zero-hours, agency, or casual worker, provided they meet the following conditions (and are classed as an employee for the purposes of SSP):
- They’ve been sick for a minimum continuous period of four “qualifying days”, corresponding to the days on which they had to go to work
- They earned an average minimum of £123 per week (before taxes)
- They told their employer about their sickness within the next seven days or the deadline established in the employment contract.
Even if they satisfy all these requirements, they may still not qualify if one of the following is true:
- They already received the maximum SSP amount (namely, 28 weeks)
- They’re receiving Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
- They were on strike or in custody during their first day of sickness
- They work outside the EU, and the employer is not in charge of their National Insurance contributions (NIC)
- They obtained Employment and Support Allowance in the prior 12 weeks of beginning or returning to work for the employer
Self-employed persons are not entitled to SSP protection.
An employee’s sickness leave could be “linked” if they have regular periods of four or more days within a timeframe of eight weeks.
If the linked periods extend for more than three years, they’ll no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay.
Sick Leave vs Sick Pay
Employees can still be on sick leave without qualifying for sick pay (unpaid sick leave). Denial of SSP does not mean they’re no longer allowed to be absent from work.
For the record, annual (holiday) leave is still accrued while the employee is on sick leave.
What is a “Fit Note”?
A fit note – also called a “sick note” or “proof of illness” – is a statement from a qualified healthcare professional testifying on a person’s medical condition and ability to undertake work.
Employers may ask their employees to submit this fit note as proof of their illness before granting statutory sick pay, but only if the sickness absence is intended to last more than seven calendar days. However, employees should be allowed some extra time when there were reasonable causes for not getting one on time.
These are some of the healthcare professionals who can issue a valid fit note:
- Hospital doctors or general practitioners
- Occupational therapists
- Registered nurses
Employers could agree to accept similar documents from “Allied Health Professionals” (AHP) – such as podiatrists, physiotherapists, or occupational therapists. This document could be an AHP Health and Work Report instead of a fit note.
Lastly, an employer could discreetly discuss with their employee whether they could undertake alternative tasks not addressed by the fit note.
How Much SSP Should Employees Receive?
The statutory sick pay amount an employee would get is £99.35 per week (again, regardless of their normal pay) for a maximum of 28 weeks. This is the minimum employers should give, but they could pay more depending on what the company’s own sick pay scheme stipulates.
Employers would only pay for the “qualifying days”, meaning the days the employee is supposed to attend work.
For zero-hour contract workers, these qualifying days would be those on their weekly shifts that have remained the same from week to week. Working out these qualifying days can be challenging, which is why it’s imperative to seek expert advice.
Employers aren’t obliged to give sick pay for the first three qualifying days of illness (called the “waiting period”) unless the company’s sick pay policies entitle employees or workers to receive payment for those days.
Employees can only earn the right to statutory sick pay for the first three eligible days of sickness absence if they have already received SSP within the past eight weeks, and it excluded the waiting period.
An employee’s statutory sick pay is subject to tax and National Insurance deductions.
What Happens If There’s a Problem with an Employee's SSP?
If an employer rejects a statutory sick pay application, they should issue a written answer (via form SSP1 or letter/email) detailing the reasons for doing so. In the event that the employer disagrees, the employee should first try to reason with them informally or file a grievance.
If the employer vehemently refuses to grant SSP on ludicrous grounds or delays the decision-making unreasonably, the affected employee can contact HMRC (His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) so that the latter can reach a decision on their SSP rights. HMRC could also get involved if the employer fails to pay after agreeing to it or pays the wrong amount.
If the employee decides to take their case to HMRC, they should at least warn their employer first. This might prompt them to change their stance to avoid taking the situation further.
The affected employee should contact HMRC only if they can demonstrate they tried to speak with their boss to no avail or could not reach an agreement with them.
Supposing the employee doesn’t meet the SSP eligibility prerequisites or their SSP expires, they may still apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit with the aforementioned form SSP1.
Employment and Support Allowance
ESA can give sick employees money to help afford their living costs whenever they’re unable to carry out any work because of their disability or health issue. Likewise, the employee may receive support to regain their ability to work whenever feasible.
To be eligible, they must have paid National Insurance contributions and/or accrued National Insurance credits in the last two or three years at least.
How much ESA they’ll get will hinge upon their application stage, age, and ability to return to work. They typically get an assessment rate of either £61.05 (if under 25 years of age) or £77 (if over 25). This assessment rate is given while the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) evaluates the application.
After the assessment, a person could get up to £117.60 per week if they’re unable to get back to work or £77 if they are likely to return to service (and, therefore, may be assigned to the work-related activity group).
Universal Credit is a monthly (biweekly in Scotland) payment that, just as with ESA, is supposed to help vulnerable individuals cope with their living expenses.
To qualify, they must not have more than £16,000 in money, investments, and savings combined. They also must be 18 years old or over but should not exceed the State Pension age.
The monthly standard allowance is granted to only one household member, and it can range from £265.31 to £525,72, depending on the applicant’s age and marital/civil status.
When Should Employees Receive their SSP1 Form?
The employer must hand this form within seven days of their employee’s sickness absence or the expiration of their paid SSP (provided that they’re still sick).
If the SSP is expected to end before the illness goes away or remits, the form should be given at the beginning of the 23rd week or before.
Both employees and employers with next to no knowledge of employment law and SSP can find it intimidating to approach these topics. For this reason, the handy assistance of an employment law expert becomes a vital resource.
Our lawyers have proven experience handling disabilities at work and everything related to sick leave and pay. Our firm’s commitment has always been to ensure that our clients, whether they be employees, workers, senior executives, or employers, are wholly aware of the actions to take and pitfalls to avoid in these matters.
Call now at 0333 305 9375. Our employment specialists are eagerly awaiting to hear from you.
Last modified on March 21st, 2023 at 9:18 am
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They can ask you to confirm that you were sick by filling out a form upon returning to work (self-certification), but they can’t ask you for a fit note or any other similar document if you’ve only been off work due to illness for seven days or less.
Unless the establishment has a policy to that effect, you’re not bound to give them sick pay and holiday pay simultaneously. You should speak to your employee to see whether the time off would be counted as sickness or holiday leave and if they prefer to get sick or holiday pay.
The contractual sick pay policies cannot establish worse conditions than those the law stipulates. The internal sick pay scheme contained in the employee’s written statement (also named “contractual” or “occupational” sick pay) must either reiterate the statutory conditions or offer better ones.