If you employ staff, sickness can be a tricky issue to manage. As well as respecting employees' entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or other contractual sick pay, you'll also need to ensure 'sickness' isn't used as cover for unauthorised absence. This guide will help you understand SSP rules, your employees' rights and where you stand as an employer.
How Much do Employers Have to Pay for SSP?
SSP is a weekly payment of £99.35. It's available for eligible employees who cannot work for four consecutive days due to sickness. To qualify, employees must have alerted you of their absence and meet the following criteria:1
- Have an employment contract with you.
- Have done some work under their contract.
- Have been sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days).
- Earn an average of at least £123 per week.
- Give you notice and proof of illness when needed.
Employees who have been paid less than eight weeks of earnings still qualify for SSP. SSP is a minimum level of sick pay. However, your employees' employment contracts may offer a more generous level of contractual sick pay.
What is a 'Company Sick Pay' Scheme?
Company sick pay is where an employer chooses to provide a contractual sick pay that's more generous than the SSP.
A typical company sick pay scheme would pay an employee their usual salary for a specified number of weeks. This would be followed by half-pay for another specified period beyond that. Any additional sick leave after this time will be unpaid.
It's worth noting that any sick pay policy tends to take effect after a minimum period of employment, usually three months.
Do You Have to Pay Employees When They are off Sick?
Some sick pay schemes are at the employer's discretion, which means you can choose not to give sick pay if you feel it's unwarranted. But as an employer, you're legally required to pay employees SSP — providing they are eligible.
How Long Does Statutory Sick Pay Last?
SSP is paid after three days of sickness for every day the employee usually works but can’t because of their illness. It's paid the same way as usual wages—with taxes and National Insurance deducted—and can continue weekly for up to 28 weeks. If your employee returns to work but then goes off sick again within eight weeks of their original sickness, these two sickness periods are linked.
In this case, SSP would be payable from the first working day of their absence; the employee doesn't have to wait three days for the second period. However, if eight weeks and a day pass since the first period of sickness, your employee will have to wait three days at the start of the second sickness before receiving SSP.
Having a sickness policy in place as part of your employees' contracts can help reduce absence by discouraging employees from taking 'sick' days as a form of extra holiday. For example, when staff are sick, you might require them to call in rather than taking the easier approach of sending an email or texting. You might also speak to them on their return and ask them to complete a self-certification sick note explaining their absence.
Monitoring patterns of sickness absence can help you identify problems; high levels of sick leave on a Friday or Monday might raise suspicions, for example.
Calculating Employees' Statutory Sick Pay
You can use the Government's SSP calculator to determine the actual amount you should pay an employee.2
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