It’s virtually inevitable that your staff members will need to take time off work for sickness at some point during their time with you. It’s important to make sure you’re completely up to date on their rights and your responsibilities. As an employer it is in your own interest not to make it difficult for employees to take time off sick, as you can force them (perhaps unwittingly) into coming in when they are not fit to do so, making them not only unproductive but also liable to prolong their illness/injury or pass on communicable diseases to other workers. However, employers also have the right to ensure that employees are not abusing their sickness rights. It’s not unusual for staff members in many companies to phone in sick just because they have had a late night or because the sun has unexpectedly come out. Some employees know how many days off sick they can get away with and make sure they take just the right amount off each year. Within reason, companies can make certain demands of their employees to make sure employees’ claims of sickness are real. From the start of an employment, employers must make clear in the contract what is expected of their staff members in the event of sickness – and what they can expect of the employer. For example, an employer can insist on the employee phoning in at 9 a.m. to report their absence, not waiting till 10 a.m. or sending a text message or email. There is a minimum statutory sick pay (SSP) that employers must pay their staff if they pay National Insurance contributions and if the employee was sick for four or more consecutive days (regardless of whether they are working days). Employees will also need to have informed the employer of the sickness within 7 days or a time limit imposed by the employer. The government sets the SSP rate and this is the minimum allowable. Some employers pay the normal wage if an employee is off sick, perhaps up to a number of weeks chosen as company policy. Employees are not entitled to statutory sick pay if they are being paid statutory maternity or paternity pay.