Your employees may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is £88.45 a week for up to 28 weeks.
You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme (you can’t offer less). Company schemes are also called ‘contractual’ or ‘occupational’ sick pay and must be included in an employment contract.
Holiday (or ‘annual leave’)
Statutory annual leave is accrued while the employee is off work sick (no matter how long they’re off) and can be taken during sick leave.
The weekly rate for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is £88.45 for up to 28 weeks. It is paid:
- for the days an employee normally works - called ‘qualifying days’
- in the same way as wages, eg on the normal payday, deducting tax and National insurance
Some employment types like agency workers, directors and educational workers have different rules for entitlement. You may still have to pay SSP even if you stop trading.
You can’t force your employees to take annual leave when they’re eligible for sick leave.
When to start paying SSP
SSP is paid when the employee is sick for at least 4 days in a row (including non-working days). You start paying SSP from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (day an employee is normally required to work). The first 3 qualifying days are called ‘waiting days’.
You can’t count a day as a sick day if an employee has worked for a minute or more before they go home sick.
If an employee works a shift that ends the day after it started and becomes sick during the shift or after it has finished, the second day will count as a sick day.
You don’t usually pay SSP for the first 3 qualifying days unless they’ve been off sick and getting SSP within the last 8 weeks.
When to stop paying SSP
Usually SSP stops when the employee comes back to work or no longer qualifies.
You don’t need to keep records of SSP paid.
You can choose how you keep records of your employees’ sickness absence. HMRC may need to see these records if there’s a dispute over payment of SSP.
Eligibility and form SSP1
To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) employees must:
- have an employment contract
- have done some work under their contract
- have been sick for 4 or more days in a row (including non-working days) - known as a ‘period of incapacity for work’
- earn at least £112 a week
- give you the correct notice
- give you proof of their illness, only after 7 days off
Employees who have been paid less than 8 weeks of earnings still qualify for sick pay.
Employees can qualify for sick pay from more than one job.
They could also qualify in one job but be fit for work in another, eg if one job is physical work that they can’t do while ill but the other is office-based.
Employees don’t qualify for SSP if they:
- have received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks)
- are getting Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance - there are special rules for pregnant women and new mothers who don’t get these payments
- are off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that their baby is due
- were in custody or on strike on the first day of sickness (including any linked periods)
- are working outside the EU and you’re not liable for their National Insurance contributions
- received Employment Support Allowance within 12 weeks of starting or returning to work for you
Linked periods of sickness
If your employee has regular periods of sickness, they may count as ‘linked’. To be linked, the periods must:
- qualify for SSP by lasting 4 or more days each
- be 8 weeks or less apart
Your employee is no longer eligible for SSP if they have a continuous series of linked periods that lasts more than 3 years.
You must send an employee form SSP1:
- within 7 days of them going off sick, if they don’t qualify for SSP
- within 7 days of their SSP ending, if it ends unexpectedly while they’re still sick
- on or before the beginning of the 23rd week, if their SSP is expected to end before their sickness does
They can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead.
If your employee thinks this is unfair, they can appeal to HMRC - the form tells them how to do this.
You can complete form SSP1 before the end of SSP if you know an employee will be off sick for more than 28 weeks. This means they can apply for ESA before their SSP comes to an end.
The employee should tell you they’re sick within your own time limit (or 7 days if you don’t have one). You can’t insist they tell you in person or on a special form.
You don’t have to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for any days the employee was late in telling you (unless there’s a good reason for the delay).
An employee is sick from Monday 8 June. They usually work from Monday to Friday.
You’ve set your time limit at 5 days’ notice, but they only tell you they’re sick after 7 days (on Monday 13 une).
You don’t have to pay them SSP for the 2 days they were late telling you.
You start paying SSP on Thursday 16 June - on the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (days an employee usually works on) after they told you they were sick.
Fit notes and asking for proof
After 7 days off sick you can ask the employee for a fit note from their doctor. This used to be called a sick note.
You can’t withhold SSP if the employee is late sending you a fit note.
If you get a ‘return to work plan’ for the employee through the Fit for Work scheme, you can accept this instead of a fit note.
If your employee is off sick frequently or for a long time, HMRC has information about getting medical advice.
Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay
You can’t reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for sick leave any more.
You may be able to reclaim SSP for a previous tax year if a high proportion of your employees were off sick at the same time. You can reclaim the difference if SSP was more than 13% of your Class 1 National Insurance in a tax month.
Calculate how much you’ll get back using your payroll software. How you reclaim the payments depends on how you reported payroll in the relevant tax year.
If you were reporting payroll information in real time (RTI), include the amount you’re reclaiming in an Employer Payment Summary (EPS).
Otherwise, you should complete and return an SP32 form to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
If you’re insolvent
HMRC will pay SSP for any employee who continues to work for you if they were sick when you became insolvent. Tell your employee to contact the Statutory Payment Disputes Team.
If their sickness continues and you terminate their contract, give them a completed SSP1 form so they can claim Employment Support Allowance instead.
Fit for Work is free and helps employees stay in or return to work. It provides an occupational health assessment and general health and work advice to employees, employers and GPs.
Fit for Work will complement, and not replace, existing occupational health services provided by employers. It will fill the gap in support that currently exists and will especially benefit those employers who currently have limited in-house occupational health services.
Employers can accept Return to Work Plans issued through Fit for Work as evidence of sickness absence in exactly the same way as a GP fit note.
GPs and employers can refer a patient or employee by using:
Guidance about Fit for Work