Sick and tired?

English law has long enshrined the rights of employees to a statutory minimum level of sick pay for those unable to work. For business owners new to the UK, there may be some aspects of the sick system that require some explanation.  

For instance, if a company from the EU were to set up in the UK, they may find certain differences in the way employees are dealt with. In Germany, for instance, if an employee is sick and absent, the employer is obliged to keep paying the salary for a maximum of six weeks; after this payment from the employer is stopped and the employee is entitled to a sick pay (roughly 67% of the net salary) from the accredited health insurance company.  

In the UK, however, the company will need to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if the sickness absence falls within the terms of the scheme. Company sick pay can be set according to the company’s requirements (and ability to pay the company sick pay).  There is no requirement to pay company sick pay but it is a helpful benefit to attract and retain staff. 

If the employee is sick, they should comply with the sickness absence reporting criteria, i.e., self-certification for the first six days and a Fitness to Work note (Fit Note) for absence of seven days or more, including weekends. The Fit Notes should cover all sickness absence periods and will indicate when the employee can return to work on the note. 

The company may wish, in due course, to set up a health insurance payment scheme in due course however as there is no UK entity you will struggle to obtain any such scheme as underwriters to not have an appetite for non-UK entities.  

There are also some important differences in the regulation dealing with employees who may have a child who is sick and requires care.  By German law, the employer has to give the employee unpaid leave, entitling the employee to a kind of “child’s sick pay” from an accredited health insurance company. Typically this type of insurance pays out for a max of 10 days child sick pay per year.  

Conversely, the UK legislates for time off for emergencies, which is unpaid, and time off for dependents, both of which is unpaid; however a company can (consistently) choose to pay all or some of the time off.  As above, it is an attractive thing for employees to have.  A healthcare scheme may cover this benefit, at some cost, if the employee wishes to set such a scheme up in their own name.   

There is one caution important to note: some employees may take advantage of both options noted above so there employers may want to look at putting in place rules around the circumstances and amount of paid leave for such eventualities.  

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