Having just recovered from my short hospital stay, I thought an apt subject for this month’s blog is to give an overview of Statutory Sick Pay.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a payment an employee receives from their employer if they are ill and unable to work for a number of days. There is a legal entitlement to SSP as long as the employee meets a number of eligibility criteria.

Rate of SSP

The flat rate for SSP is £99.35 a week from the fourth day that an employee is unwell. Employees do not receive SSP for the first three days of illness although there was a now-closed exception to this during the pandemic where employees who had tested positive for Covid-19 were paid from the first day.

Eligibility for SSP

Most employees will be eligible for SSP although there are some exceptions. An employee must have a current employment contract and have done some work for the employer and must earn an average of at least £123 per week.

They must have been ill for at least 4 days in a row and have notified their employer of their illness in the way the employer asks or is detailed in their Sickness Policy. For example, if the policy says the employee must phone in sick by 9am on the first day, they may lose SSP entitlement if they don’t follow that policy.

Employees who are on maternity leave, have been on benefits before starting work for the employer, are in custody or on strike are not entitled to SSP.

Employees should also provide a ‘fit note’ (or sick note) from their doctor or hospital after the first seven days that details the reason why they have been unable to work. The time between the fourth day (the first day SSP is paid) and the seventh day can be covered by self-certification.

How long does SSP last?

Employees can only receive SSP for a maximum of 28 weeks.

An exception to this is if an employee has a series of linked absences if they have a long-term condition. An example might be where an employee has a week off and then successfully returns to work. Then a recurrence of the illness within 8 weeks means they need to take more time off (must be at least four days). This pattern can continue for up to 3 years until the employee can no long receive SSP.

Occupational sick pay

For many full-time employees, receiving only £99.35 a week might mean a significant drop in wages and the financial impact of being ill can add to the overall anxiety about the situation. Employers can therefore choose to top up pay over the statutory rate.

The details of this should be in the Sickness Policy but an example might be full pay for the first eight weeks of sickness, then only half pay for the next eight weeks and the statutory rate for the final 12 weeks.

After SSP

When an employee has used all their entitlement to SSP (usually after 28 weeks) and they are still not able to return to work, they can claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.

This is also a situation where an employer’s Sickness Policy will come into play as there will be guidance on what to do and how to work with the employee to decide the best way forward.

It’s not unusual for employers to have to pay SSP so it’s best to be prepared both for short term sickness such as ‘flu or injury and longer term sickness due to serious illness. If you need any help with SSP, just get in touch.