MPs call for statutory sick pay increase

Sickness leave
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Peninsula Team, Peninsula Team

(Last updated )

The amount of statutory sick pay (SSP) should be increased to match the rate of statutory maternity leave as current system is not providing enough support for sick workers, MPs said

MPs on the Work and Pensions Committee are calling for an increase in the rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) in line with statutory maternity pay to strike a reasonable balance between providing extra financial support and not placing excessive extra costs on businesses.

This approach would increase the rate to £172.48 per week (using the 2023–24 rate), or 90% of earnings, whichever was lower. This would be considerably more than the 2023–24 SSP rate of £109.40. However, it said the current three-day waiting period should not be removed as ‘it could result in significant behavioural change by employees’.

The committee also said that all employees should be eligible for SSP, not just those earning above the lower earnings limit with a recommendation the government introduced this change from April 2025.

Rates of sickness absence and ill health have increased in recent years, with a record 185.6 million working days lost to sickness or injury in 2022. During its inquiry, the Committee heard the current system of SSP was an insufficient safety net for those who relied on it, and no use at all to those who were not eligible.

Despite consultations by previous governments, no permanent changes have been forthcoming, the MPs said.

While the Committee said it understood why the government decided that the Covid-19 pandemic was the wrong time to introduce changes, due to the immediate additional costs on employers, it finds that this argument is now less valid.

In addition to recommending changes to the SSP rate and eligibility, the report calls on the government to amend legislation to enable SSP to be paid in combination with usual wages in order to encourage phased returns to work.

On the cost to businesses, the report concluded that the overall impact of SSP reform was difficult to predict, but even if it did not result in lower levels of sickness absence, larger businesses would be able to absorb the costs.

MPs acknowledged that this would be harder for smaller businesses, however, and calls on the government to consult with small and medium-sized businesses on the design of a small business rebate for SSP.

Sir Stephen Timms MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: ‘Statutory sick pay is failing in its primary purpose to act as a safety net for workers who most need financial help during illness.

‘With the country continuing to face high rates of sickness absence, the government can no longer afford to keep kicking the can down the road on reform. The Committee’s proposals strike the right balance between widening and strengthening support and not placing excessive burdens on business.’

The report also said the government should set up a contributory sick pay scheme for the self-employed to increase support during periods of illness.

‘A growing number of workers are now classified as self-employed and a new contributory sick pay scheme for self-employed people would be a welcome step towards ensuring they are they are no worse off financially during periods of sickness than employees on SSP,’ Timms added.

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