Law guide: Employment

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Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Contents

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Under the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 as amended, employers are responsible for paying SSP to employees for up to 28 weeks of sickness in any period. The following notes only summarise the main features of the scheme.

For further detailed information, go to the Gov.uk site and perform a search using the term 'Statutory Sick Pay'. There is detailed advice set out on this site including the latest edition of the Statutory Payments Manual, which contains detailed information on SSP.

SSP - Rate of SSP and other limits

Average Weekly EarningsSSP Weekly Rate

Under £113

Nil

£113 and over

£89.35

These rates are reviewed periodically, usually in April. From 2 April 2017, the rate is £89.35.

SSP can only be paid in respect of qualifying days and the daily rate is the Weekly SSP Rate divided by the number of qualifying days in that week.

The maximum entitlement is 28 weeks' SSP in any one period of up to 3 years.

SSP payments from another employer, past or present, do not affect your liability and should be ignored. SSP liability ceases on termination of employment, provided the contract was not ended to avoid paying SSP.

Excluded employees

An employee in any of the following categories has no SSP entitlement:

  • Employees who are sick for less than four days in a row
  • People you pay who are non-employees, e.g. freelancers and contractors
  • Employees who earn less than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions (NICs) - £113 a week for 2017/18
  • Employees who have recently claimed state incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

Overpayment

Special rules apply to correcting errors such as overpayment and underpayment of SSP.

Further details and advice can be obtained from your Jobcentre Plus Local Benefit Delivery Service, and if necessary from the telephone legal advice helpline.

The decision to pay

Initially the employer must decide whether SSP is payable and notify the employee of the reasons for any non-payment. On request from an employee, the employer must provide them with a written statement of:

  • The days for which SSP is being paid
  • The amount of SSP being paid
  • Reasons for non-payment on any other days

The employee should discuss any disputed decision with the employer first, but can ask the HM Revenue and Customs to make a formal decision.

Notification of absence

Within limits, employers can set their own rules about employees notifying sickness absence. Full details of any notification rules must be made available to employees. If the employer makes no rules or they are outside set limits an employee's written notification of sickness to their employer, not later than 7 calendar days after a qualifying day of absence, will satisfy the notification requirements for that day. Late notification without good reason may entitle the employer to withhold SSP for the number of qualifying days by which notification was delayed.

Evidence of sickness

Employees can be asked to produce any reasonable evidence of sickness in support of claims for SSP. Many employers use a system of self-certificates and doctor's certificates as described elsewhere in this section.

There must be satisfactory control of sickness absence but the employer can choose the method.

Medical statements

Medical evidence is required, for SSP purposes, from the eighth day that an employee is away from work due to sickness or injury.

Regulations require doctors to provide a medical statement which gives them an option to certify that an employee 'may be fit for work' (known as a 'fit note') after taking into account certain advice. This will generally include recommendations for changes that can be made to the workplace to facilitate the employee's return to work.

'Fit for Work' scheme (England, Wales and Scotland)

The 'Fit for Work' scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (in England & Wales) and the Scottish Government. You can use its free services to help employees stay in or return to work:

  • Health and work guidance through new Fit for Work and Fit for Work Scotland websites and a telephone helpline to help with preventing absences.
  • A referral for an occupational health assessment for employees who have reached, or whose GPs expect them to reach, 4 weeks of sick leave. It applies to England, Wales and Scotland only.

Also, see its guidance for employers, which includes advice on the procedure to follow if an employer receives a 'may be fit for return to work' statement.

If, following consultation with the employee, it looks likely that they will be able to return to work then you should carry out a health and safety risk assessment on their return to work. Guidance for undertaking a risk assessment can be obtained from the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Sickness absence and annual leave

There are special rules regarding the treatment of an employee's entitlement to statutory annual leave whilst they are unable to work due to sickness or injury.

Employees continue to accrue (build up) their statutory annual leave whilst absent from work due to sickness or injury, no matter how long the period of absence lasts. An employee can take their statutory annual leave at the same time as their sick leave and receive their normal rate of pay. Alternatively, the employee can carry over all of their accrued annual leave into the next holiday year but only if due to the length of time they have been absent they have been unable to take their annual leave during the relevant leave year.

Employees can also choose to have their statutory annual leave changed to sick leave if their scheduled holiday coincides with them being sick or injured either just before taking their holiday or whilst on holiday, as long as they give satisfactory evidence of their incapacity. The employee must be allowed to arrange to take the statutory annual leave that they missed at a later date. If there is insufficient time for them to take this in the same holiday year, then you must allow the employee carry it forward into the next holiday year.