An overview of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

In the UK, employers must, by law, pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees when they meet certain eligibility conditions.

What are the eligibility conditions?

  • they’ve been off sick for at least four days in a row (except when it’s for self-isolation for coronavirus), including non-working days,
  • they earn on average at least £120 a week, before tax,
  • be self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and is not self-isolating for any other reason,
  • they’ve told their employer within any deadline the employer has set or within seven days

The employee may still qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)  if they have started their job recently and not received eight weeks’ pay at the start of sickness absence.

An employee can still qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are furloughed.

More details regarding SSP eligibility conditions can be found here.

What is the employee entitled to if off on sickness absence?

The employer must pay the employee £95.85 per week for up to 28 weeks (and ensuring that the absence is certified correctly – Self Assessment for up to 6 days and a Fitness to Work Note (Fit Note) for the sickness of 7 days or more, including weekends).

What if the employee is absent due to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

If the employee has a letter from the Government or a qualified medical practitioner, stating that the individual should “shield” due to their health vulnerability, SSP will be paid for the specified period of time.

  • The shielding can be for more than one period of time (given that we are heading into another shut down in some areas).
  • If the employee is self-isolating because they have tested positive or lives with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms.
  • The employee must self-isolate for at least four days to be eligible for SSP. The SSP will be paid for each day the employee was self-isolating if it started after 13th March 2020.
  • If the employee is self-isolating because they had contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • The employee should self-isolate if they have been notified by the NHS, public health, or test and trace that they have come into contact with someone with COVID-19. The employee must self-isolate for at least four days to be eligible for SSP.

On Monday, 28 September 2020, the Government introduced new legislation – The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions, Self-Isolation (England)) Regulations 2020 imposing a legal obligation on employers to ensure that the staff they know have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with somebody who has, do not attend the workplace.

Key points from The Health Protection Regulations 2020 are:

  • Failure to comply with this new law is a criminal offence – workers and organisations could face a fine of £1k for their first offence, up to £10k for repeated infringements,
  • Workers are now also under an obligation to inform their employer if they have to self-isolate, and face a £50 fine if they fail to tell their employer about this,
  • Workers would have a duty to go home immediately if they received a call from a contact tracer or a test result text message while at work,
  • Those on lower incomes who are self-isolating, unable to work from home, and have lost income, as a result, may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment,
  • Those who have been told to self-isolate from Monday (28 September) will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their local authority. These are expected by 12 October.
  • Employers will be at risk if they break the law without an unreasonable excuse.

Paul Beare blog - covid19 mask

What steps can the employer take?

  • Be alert to any staff that are showing signs of COVID -19 and/or have mentioned to their manager that they have tested positive, either in the workplace, or whilst they have been working from home,
  • Consider setting up a dedicated telephone line so that employees can use it to inform you that they are self-isolating to ensure that the message is being given directly to HR,
  • Once an employee has confirmed they are self-isolating, ensure you have taken the necessary steps to inform anyone in the workplace that might have been in contact with the employee so that they can also take the necessary steps,
  • Consider updating or creating a COVID-19 policy on self-isolation and the employees’ obligations, so that everyone is aware of what their duties are under the new rules,
  • Remind employees that are self-isolating that they need to remain at home and cannot attend the workplace,
  • Offer employees support from a well-being perspective during a period of self-isolation, particularly if it is going to impact them financially – more often than not, the reason why employees choose not to self-isolate will be down to the loss of their salary,
  • For employees that fail to abide by their obligations, considering taking a stricter approach i.e. disciplinary action.

What if the employee is self-isolating prior to surgery?

If the employee has been advised by a qualified medical practitioner to self-isolate prior to surgery, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable. The employee must self-isolate for at least four days (including non-working days) to be eligible for SSP. SSP is payable for every day the employee was self-isolating but is not payable for any self-isolation prior to 26th August 2020.

What if an employee has sickness absence for any other reason (other sicknesses)?

SSP is payable from the fourth day of absence. The days the employee are off sick when they would normally have worked are called “qualifying day”. If an employee is eligible to be paid SSP, they will receive SSP for all days apart from up to the first three days – “waiting days”. However, the employee will receive payment for “waiting days” if they have received SSP within the previous eight weeks if it included a three-day waiting period.

The employee will be paid SSP by their employer in the same way that they would receive their normal wages and at the same interval.  The SSP will be subject to tax and NICs.

What if the employee has linked periods of sickness?

If an employee has regular periods of sickness absence, they may be “linked”, which means that the periods of sickness absence:

  • last four or more days each
  • be eight weeks or less apart

The employee will not be eligible for SSP if they have had linked sickness absence in excess of a three-year period.

Paul Beare Limited can work with you to ensure that your business is established in all aspects of UK HR law and policies. Please get in touch to find out how we can support you in this area.