Sickness absence can have a significant impact on the performance and productivity of any business.
This makes it essential for employers to fully understand employee rights to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and the circumstances in which it applies.
What is Statutory Sick Pay and how much is an employee entitled to?
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the amount paid to employees who are too ill to work.
It's a legal requirement that employees receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) when they are absent from work due to illness—currently employees are entitled to a flat rate of £94.25 per week which increases to £95.85 on 6th April 2020.
Any amount that the employer wishes to pay beyond this amount is classed as a contractual excess.
There are specific qualifying conditions that apply in order for the employee to receive SSP, including their length of sickness.
The business cost of long-term sickness
For any business, long term sickness represents a significant cost and can impact heavily on day to day productivity, particularly small businesses that also have to recruit a temporary replacement as a result. SSP can be paid for a maximum of 28 weeks.
In the event of long term sickness, the employer may request evidence from a medical professional to confirm the nature of the issue.
You should be aware that SSP must be paid if the employee in question has met the qualifying conditions.
However, the employer may choose to withhold SSP if they have a genuine reason to doubt the validity of the employee’s claim.
It’s crucial for all organisations to establish a clear and fair absence management policy to keep Statutory Sick Pay payments to a minimum.
Employee qualifying conditions
For employees to qualify for SSP, they must have completed some work, and the length of absence needs to be at least four days.
SSP is normally only paid from the fourth day onwards, so an absence of three days or fewer does not qualify.
For the employee, the value of SSP is likely to far lower than their usual earnings, which can leave people in financial difficulty in the long term if they have no other planned provision.
You may also ask a member of staff to fill out a self-certification form when they return to work to confirm that they’ve been off sick for up to seven days.
Sick pay entitlement and holidays
In June 2012, an EU court ruled that if an employee falls ill prior to, or during, their planned holiday leave then they can submit an application to convert holidays to sickness absence and be paid SSP, providing they meet the qualifying conditions.
The employee can then postpone their holidays to a later date.
The law behind statutory sick pay
Statutory sick pay is covered by the following legislation:
- The Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982
- The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985
As of April 2014, businesses can no longer seek reimbursement for SSP from the government, and are now expected to cover the full cost of absence themselves.
- Statutory sick pay is currently set at a minimum of £94.25 per week which increases to £95.85 on 6th April 2020, and is due to be paid for a maximum of 28 weeks.
- Employees must have completed some work to qualify for SSP, and the length of absence needs to be at least four days.
- As of April 2014, businesses can no longer claim reimbursement from the government to cover the cost of long term sickness absence.
- Different rules may apply where absence is related to the coronavirus.