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What is Statutory Sick Pay?

September 2, 2021

There's nothing worse than trying to complete your daily tasks at work when you're feeling unwell. Although it can be hard to admit, it's important that you take a break when necessary. There's not much to gain from working when you're ill since it's highly unlikely you'll be functioning at your full capacity. 

Unfortunately, the bills don't stop when you're not at work, so you'll still need some sort of income to support your expenses in place of your usual salaried income. In these situations, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can support you while you're taking some much-needed time to recover. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, 118.6 million working days were taken as sick leave in 2020. The main reasons for most of these sick days were coughs and colds, with coronavirus placing fourth on the list of reasons for taking a sick day. However, other more severe illnesses require longer time off than a few days and are cause for Statutory Sick Pay.

In this article, we'll explain who is eligible to claim Statutory Sick Pay, how long you can receive it and the set amount you can be paid.

What is Statutory Sick Pay?

Statutory Sick Pay is the minimum amount an employer must pay their employee if they are off work due to illness for an extended time. It is paid for the days you would generally work, otherwise known as 'qualifying days'.

You can claim Statutory Sick Pay after you have had more than three days off work. However, this does not apply if you are self-isolating on return to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason (for example, being in self-isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus).

The maximum length of time that you claim Statutory Sick Pay is up to 28 weeks. No form is needed to apply for Statutory Sick Pay, although you should let your employers know early on so that the payment process can start as soon as possible.

Only certain people can claim Statutory Sick Pay. In some circumstances, employers might offer alternative payment schemes for when employees are on sick leave.

How much Statutory Sick Pay will I get?

You can receive £96.35 per week when you are registered for Statutory Sick Pay. This amount can be paid for up to 28 weeks after you first took sick leave. 

According to gov.uk, you can get Statutory Sick Pay from any companies that you are currently employed at. However, whilst you may be claiming Statutory Sick Pay for one job, you can continue working in another as usual if you are still capable. For example, you might not be able to continue working in a physically demanding job as a cleaner if you have a bad back, but you might be able to continue working in an office-based role. 

Company sick pay schemes

Some companies offer their own sick leave scheme, which may give more money than the standard Statutory Sick Pay. Your employer should include this information in your employment contract.

It's usually up to the employer to decide whether you qualify for their company sick pay. However, you could also be paid company sick pay even if you aren't eligible under the government's Statutory Sick Pay.

It's essential to discuss sick pay with your employer so that you understand the company policy and whether they offer an alternative sick pay scheme. 

Who is eligible for statutory sick pay?

Employees who pay Class 1 National Insurance but can't work due to illness are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. You can apply for it from the fourth day you're sick in a row. The first three days are called 'waiting days' unless you have previously applied for statutory sick pay in the same year.

You must be contracted and earn £120 or more per week to claim for Statutory Sick Pay. Employees who have worked less than two months are still eligible for Statutory Sick Pay.

Part-time staff are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, as are temporary, zero-hour and agency workers. The sick pay amount is not reduced, no matter the number of hours you are contracted to work.

How can I claim for statutory sick pay?

You should contact your employer as soon as you know that you will be off sick for any longer than a few days. The minimum number of days you must be off sick to claim Statutory Sick Pay is four days.

Your employer will pay the money in the usual method that you usually receive your wages. This could be either monthly or weekly and takes place as part of your usual payday.

It's essential to report your illness to your employer as soon as possible, ideally from the first day off on sick leave. Otherwise, you could lose out on Statutory Sick Pay. Seven days is the usual time frame to inform your employer of extended sickness absence, although your company may have its own set deadline.

Fit notes

Your employer may ask to see a 'fit note', otherwise known as a 'sick note'. You only have to provide your employer with the note if you have been off work due to illness for more than seven days. This includes non-working days such as weekends and bank holidays.

You can get a fit note from your doctor (either a GP or a hospital doctor). Although the note should be free, your doctor may charge you if you ask for the note earlier than the seven-day time frame.

The note will state whether you are fit to work or not and can be used in evidence to claim statutory sick pay. Sometimes employers ask for a copy of the note, but you should always keep the original copy yourself for future reference.

Why can't I claim for statutory sick pay?

Receiving Statutory Sick Pay may seem obvious if you're sick and off work, but there is an eligibility criteria that determines whether or not you qualify for Statutory Sick Pay and may have to claim for other benefits.

Exceeded Statutory Sick Pay limit

One reason you might not be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay is that you've already been claiming it for a maximum of 28 weeks. In this case, you might be eligible for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are still unable to work due to illness.

Universal Credit is a benefit paid to those earning a low income or out of work for an extended period. ESA is a state benefit paid towards those who cannot work due to long-term ill-health or disabilities.

Linked Periods

Another reason that you might not be able to claim is that your time off is classed as 'linked periods'. This means that you have regular periods of sickness that last four or more days each and occur within eight weeks or less. You're no longer eligible for Statutory Sick Pay if you have linked periods of sickness over three years.

Different National Insurance class

Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributors don't qualify for Statutory Sick Pay, but you can claim Employment and Support Allowance.

You're also not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay if you are on maternity leave and already receiving statutory maternity pay.

What happens when my Statutory Sick Pay ends?

If your Statutory Sick Pay is due to finish, your employer must send you an SSP1 form. This will happen within seven days of your Statutory Sick Pay ending if it unexpectedly ends because you no longer qualify.

Your employer should give the SSP1 form to you on or before the beginning of the 23rd week if your illness is expected to exceed the Statutory Sick Pay deadline. The form could be sent to you electronically or by post.

You can use the SSP1 form to assist your application for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you are still unable to work.

When you are ready to return to work, your employer may ask you to fill out a form to confirm why you were off sick.

Is Statutory Sick Pay taxable?

Statutory Sick Pay acts as a temporary salary when you are unable to work. This means that it is still tax and National Insurance deductible. The usual deductions (the tax usually deducted from your salary) are made on your Statutory Sick Pay.

In some instances, your Statutory Sick Pay might mean that your year's income falls below the standard tax brackets. If this happens, you won't have to pay tax and National Insurance on your Statutory Sick Pay.

Can I claim Statutory Sick Pay if I'm self-employed?

Statutory Sick Pay is a scheme that is only applicable to people employed at companies. Usually, this would mean that you aren't eligible for the standard Statutory Sick Pay, although there are some variations on this policy, such as whether you work for an umbrella company. 

You can set up Statutory Sick Pay for yourself if you are self-employed and own your company. This money could then be reclaimed through payroll liabilities or by discussing your options with HMRC to see if you can reclaim it as an employer.

Contractors can receive sick pay if they work for an umbrella company. This is because the umbrella company draw up a contract and employ the contractor like any other worker, which is not the case for self-employed workers who freelance.

Instead of Statutory Sick Pay, you can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). It's advisable to take out insurance in case of illness, as you will likely have a heavy reduction of income when receiving ESA. 

When do I have to start paying Statutory Sick Pay?

If you are an employer, it is your legal responsibility to pay Statutory Sick Pay to those who are eligible. For any other employees off work due to illness, you can fill out an SSP1 form. Give the form to your employee as they can then use it to claim benefits.

Your employee must notify you of extended illness within seven days or your company's set deadline. They don't have to provide you with medical evidence within the first seven days, although you can request a fit note after that period.

There's no legal obligation for the employee to tell you they're sick in person or fill out any form.

You can calculate how much Statutory Sick Pay you need to pay your employees using the government calculator. You can use this to combine different periods of sick leave if they occur within eight weeks or less.

Employees have a right to sick leave. You cannot force them to take annual leave when they are unable to work due to illness. However, an employee may ask to take a paid holiday for the time that they were on sick leave if they didn't qualify for Statutory Sick Pay.

Annual Leave

Employees still earn annual leave or 'holiday' even when they're on sick leave. This isn't affected by how long they take off.

What counts as a sick day?

To count as a sick day, the employee can't have worked any time on the day. For example, a worker who comes into work in the morning and goes home after only working a couple of hours cannot have that day counted as a sick day.

The policy is the same for shift workers – if an employee goes home during a shift, that work day will not count as a sick day. Instead, the following days will count as sick days.

What records do I have to keep for sick leave?

You don't have to keep records of employees' Statutory Sick Pay. However, HMRC might request evidence of an employee's absence due to sickness if there is a dispute over Statutory Sick Pay entitlement. This is when a fit note can be supplied to prove the employees' sick leave. 

Our accountants can update your company's payroll to account for your employees' Statutory Sick Pay and any other sick leave payment schemes that you have in place. You can mention these changes to our accountants via the in-app chat.

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Aaron Shaw

A full stack software engineer and designer by trade, Aaron has built a range of compelling web and mobile solutions for both small startups and large corporations across the globe, including the likes of Google, Red Bull and Unilever.