All Employers must make a minimum payment to workers who are absent from work due to illness provided they meet certain qualifications.  This includes Agency Workers but does not include Self-Employed people.

The payment is called Statutory Sick Pay and with effect from 6th April 2014, is £87.55 per week.  This rate is reviewed and usually increases from the beginning of each tax year.

The payment is taxable but independent from National Insurance, although an Employee must earn more than £111 per week to receive it.  This may affect some people on zero hours contracts and it is also important that Workers who are part of salary sacrifice schemes ensure that their salary is not reduced to lower that £111 per week.

Who qualifies?

An Employer pays SSP when an employee is sick for 4 days in a row (the Period of Incapacity to Work or PIW).  These days can include any days the Employee does not work such as weekends.

 SSP is only paid for the days that the Employee would normally work (or qualifying days).  There must be at least 1 qualifying day each week.  The first 3 qualifying days are called waiting days and are unpaid unless the Employee has been paid SSP within the last 8 weeks and are eligible for it again.

SSP is payable from the 4th day of sickness absence and ends when:

  • The employee is no longer sick
  • The employee has received SSP for 28 weeks
  • The employee’s contract of employment terminates

SSP is not paid: 

  • To any woman who is currently receiving maternity pay (up to 39 weeks)
  • If the employee has been taken into legal custody
  • If the linked SSP period of incapacity to work has spanned 3 years

Can an Employer enhance SSP?

An Employer can pay more than the minimum requirement of SSP if they feel it would benefit them in their recruitment and employment practices.  This is called Occupational Sick Pay or Contractual Sick Pay and is mainly based on the Employee’s length of service with the Company.

 If the Employer offers an Occupational or Contractual scheme, which pays more than SSP, then they do not have to follow the SSP rules and can adopt their own.

Can an Employee receive SSP from one Company and work for another?

Provided that the Employee is doing a different type of job to the one that they are receiving SSP for, they are allowed to continue working.  For example, an Employee with a back problem off sick from a role requiring heavy lifting may continue to work answering the phone in an office.

 Can an Employer claim back SSP from the Government?

Traditionally, an Employer could claim SSP through the HMRC’s percentage threshold scheme.  As of 6th April 2014, this has been abolished although historical SSP may still be claimed.  With effect from 6th April 2016, any Employer who has not claimed for any SSP via the percentage threshold scheme will not be able to claim

The government is using the money from the abolition of the percentage threshold scheme to fund a new scheme called the Health and Work Service in late 2014.

 The Health and Work Service

The Health and Work Service will provide Occupational Health Advice and Support for Employees, Employers and GPs to help individuals with a health condition to stay in or return to work.  This will be done by an assessment along with advice via a phone line and website.

Once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, four weeks of sickness absence they will normally be referred by their GP for an assessment by an Occupational Health Professional who will look at all the issues preventing the Employee returning to work.

Following this assessment a return to work plan will be drawn up and sent to the Employee, Employer and GP providing recommendations to help the Employee return to work more quickly along with information on accessing appropriate interventions.  Once the Employer is in receipt of a return to work plan, the GP no longer needs to issue a fit note.

An Employee will not have to pay tax on up to £500 of medical treatments recommended by the Health and Work Service or Employer arranged Occupational Health Service

If the Employer has an existing Occupational Health Service the Health and Work Service will compliment it by working together with them on a return to work plan for the Employee.

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