The arrival of Covid has meant that the subject of statutory sick pay has been firmly in the spotlight for a while now. In fact, it has been in the news recently thanks to the Government’s amendment of the SSP regulations as a consequence of the arrival of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Undoubtedly statutory sick pay can be a confusing topic for employees; for anyone involved in payroll or HR, it can be a subject that tends to come up on a regular basis, with employees having many questions about it. So as an employer it is important to be able to give clear explanations about statutory sick pay and to be prepared to answer any questions that may come up.
What is statutory sick pay – and how does it differ to contractual sick pay?
Statutory sick pay is the money paid by the employer when the employee is off sick. Most employees should be eligible to receive it. It is taxable, just as their salary would be.
Although there’s no requirement for them to do so, some employers choose to pay more than the SSP allowance as part of their offer of employment and this is known as contractual sick pay. There’s no set amount for what the rate of contractual sick pay should be, but it must be more than the statutory minimum rate and the terms of it should be set out in the employee’s contract.
Some of the key points to be aware of regarding eligibility for statutory sick pay are:
- The employee must have a contract and must have done some work under that contract.
- The sickness must have lasted for 4 or more consecutive days.
- The employee must provide notice of their sickness and proof where required. You’ll find more specific details about this here, including the temporary changes introduced from the 10th
- The employee must have minimum earnings of £120 per week.
- Subject to certain conditions, agency workers and contract workers can also be eligible for statutory sick pay.
When should you start paying statutory sick pay?
Statutory sick pay should be paid when the employee has been off sick for at least four consecutive days (including non-working days). The three days prior to that are referred to as ‘waiting days’. If the employee goes off sick after working for any part of the day – even a minute – that day will not count as a sick day. The first sick day will be the day following that. Payments will then stop once an employee returns to work or if they no longer qualify for statutory sick pay.
Another common question is about statutory sick pay length, i.e. how long can an employee receive statutory sick pay. The duration for which statutory sick pay is paid for is up to 28 weeks.
If the employee has regular periods of sickness, they could count as ‘linked’ if each period lasts four or more days each and they are a maximum of eight weeks apart from each other. If an employee has a series of linked periods that lasts more than three years they will no longer be eligible for statutory sick pay.
Statutory sick pay eligibility may change in the future so it is important to check the government website for official confirmation.
What is the current rate of statutory sick pay?
As of 2023, the current weekly amount of statutory sick pay is £109.40. This represents the minimum salary sick pay. If you are in doubt about what you should pay in terms of SSP, you can use this official calculator to calculate statutory sick pay.
How should you pay statutory sick pay?
You should pay SSP in the same manner as salaries and wages, via the employee’s bank account on the same day as their salary or wages would normally go through.
I.e. workers on a salary are paid an additional salary sick pay on the same day they receive their salary.
What should you do if an employee isn’t eligible for statutory sick pay?
Employees who are not eligible may be able to apply for other forms of support: specifically Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). They should use form SSP1 to support their application.
If your employee does not qualify for SSP you must send them the form within seven days of them going off sick. If your employee’s statutory sick pay is ending, then you must send them the form either within seven days of SSP ending if it ends unexpectedly while they’re still sick, or on or before the beginning of the 23rd week if the SSP is anticipated to end before their sickness does.
It is a good idea to support employees by pointing them towards sources of advice if they are in this situation, such as Citizens Advice, so they know what options are available to them.
Is the statutory sick pay system in line for an overhaul?
Another reason why SSP is in the spotlight is related to concerns that the system is not good enough to support those who need it most. The CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) is leading a campaign to urgently reform it. It highlights the fact that nearly two thirds of employers believe the SSP rate is too low and should be increased.
17.2% of the UK’s workforce do not currently qualify for SSP, including the self-employed and those who don’t meet the lower earnings limit. The CIPD points out this means many of those who need the support the most are the least likely to be able to access it. It’s calling for statutory sick pay to be at least the same as National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage rates – and for eligibility to be widened by removing the lower earnings limit. It’s also calling for consultation about wider reform including amending the rules to allow phased returns to work, removing the three qualifying waiting days requirement and improving income protection for the self-employed.
Do you require support with managing your payroll?
Following statutory sick pay guidance can be a real challenge, like so many other aspects of payroll, statutory sick pay is a complex area, with rules that can change frequently – something that has been the case even more so during the pandemic. If you feel that your company would benefit from having our payroll professionals taking care of your payroll, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us to find out more about our managed payroll services.