Many employees continue to be confused about their entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay and sick pay in general, if they are absent from work due to ill health. Some employees believe that they will continue to receive their full pay, even if their absence is for several months. The reality can be very different and may leave employees struggling financially. So, what are the facts?
1.Employees will only be entitled to full pay (known as Occupational or Company Sick Pay) if such provisions are detailed in their terms of employment. If there are no provisions for this, they will only be legally entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Company Sick Pay is normally the difference or top up between Statutory Sick Pay and the employee’s normal salary.
2. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable from the fourth day of continuous absence. The first three days of sickness absence are termed ‘waiting days’ and SSP is not payable. Some employers may pay the employee’s normal salary during this period on a discretionary basis whereas others may treat this period as unpaid. The law allows SSP to be paid for up to 28 weeks.
3. SSP is currently paid at the rate of £89.35 per week if the employee’s average weekly earnings are equal to or more than the lower earnings limit, which is currently £113. Following the 2017 Autumn Budget, the Government announced that Statutory Sick Pay will increase to £92.05 a week. The change is expected to come into force on 6 April 2018. The lower earnings limit will also increase to £116 in April 2018.
4. An employer cannot withhold SSP from an employee who is absent from work where the employee meets the relevant qualifying conditions for SSP and is able to provide evidence of incapacity.
5. The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 set out the requirements for providing evidence of incapacity. Employees cannot be required to provide medical evidence relating to the first seven calendar days of illness which is usually self-certified. Doctors can issue a doctor’s certificate (Fit Note) when the employee has been absent from work for more than seven calendar days.