Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is an employment related benefit. It is paid to employees should they be unable to go to work due to sickness, physical or mental, for a period of four days or more, as long as they earn above a lower earnings limit. It is payable for up to twenty eight weeks.
The current rate for SSP (2017/18) is £89.35 per week, with a lower earnings limit of £113 per week. From 6 April 2018, these rates will change to £92.05 and £116, respectively.
Who is entitled to claim SSP?
If you are employed (rather than self-employed), you are entitled to claim SSP as long as the following conditions are met:
- You have commenced work with an employer.
- You have been sick and absent from work for four consecutive days or more, including days when you wouldn’t normally have been at work, perhaps on a weekend or days that fall outside your arranged shift.
- Your average weekly income before tax is at least £113.00 (up to 6 April 2018) or £116.00 (from 6 April 2018).
- You inform your employer of your illness before their deadline, or within seven days if there is no deadline in place.
Who is notentitled to claim SSP?
You can’t claim for SSP if:
- You are self-employed (see the section on ‘gig economy workers’ later in this article).
- You have received the full twenty eight weeks SSP, and the period of twenty eight weeks came to an end within the last eight weeks.
- You have received Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) within the last twelve weeks.
- You are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
- You are pregnant, your baby is due in four weeks’ time or less, and your illness is related to your pregnancy.
- You have had a baby within the last fourteen weeks, or eight weeks if the baby was born over four weeks early.
- You are an agricultural worker.
- You are in the armed forces.
- You are in legal custody, either police or prison.
- You have had a series of linked periods of illness that last, altogether, more than three years. To be linked each period must last for four or more days and be eight weeks or less apart.
How to claim SSP
To claim SSP from your employer, you must inform them of your sickness by their deadline or within seven days if there is no deadline in place.
If you are late in notifying your employer and miss the deadline or seven days, whichever is applicable, then you may lose SSP payment for days that fall outside the notification period, i.e. If you contact your employer after twelve days, instead of the required seven days, then the five late days will not be covered by SSP.
Your employer may ask that you inform them in writing. Confirm with them whether this means an actual letter or if an email would be acceptable.
Your employer may ask that you obtain a doctor’s sick note (sometimes called a fit note) but this is only required in employment law if you have been off work ill for more than seven days.
Payment of SSP will usually be made at the same time and in the same way that your wages are paid to you. Where there is no usual or regular wage payment made to you, the SSP should be paid to you by the last day of the month. Alternatively, the SSP can be paid by cheque and collected from the offices by someone on your behalf or posted out to you.
In the case that you are unhappy with your employer’s decision because they decide not to pay SSP to you or you feel that they are not paying you the correct amount of SSP, then you are within your rights to contact the HMRC statutory payment dispute team. They can be reached on 03000 560 630.
Your employer must make SSP available to all employees and have a company policy in place that outlines the procedures for an employee to make a claim. They should ensure that all employees know about and have access to the above policy. They must also keep up to date with the current SSP rate and the related lower earnings limit.
Once you have informed them of your sickness, they must send you an SSP1 form if you are not eligible for SSP.
As long as you meet all the criteria of a claim, your employer must pay you SSP from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (a day when you would normally have been at work) of your period of sickness.
Your employer must keep records of an employee’s sickness absence, but they are not required to keep a record of SSP payments.
You must inform your employer of any period of absence due to sickness that lasts more than four days, within the company’s deadline. If there is no deadline in place, then you must inform them within seven days of your first day of absence.
If it is your employer’s policy for this to be put in writing, then you must adhere to this.
If after seven days’ absence, your employer requests a doctor’s sick note, then you must do your best to obtain one and forward this to your employer.
Sick pay during pregnancy
Should you receive SSP during your pregnancy, then your maternity pay will be reduced. It may be worth calculating whether you would be better off financially to claim SSP and have your maternity pay reduced, or to not claim SSP and receive the full maternity pay.
If your sickness is due to your pregnancy, you can claim SSP up to 4 weeks before your baby is due. If you’re unsure whether your sickness is related to your pregnancy, or will be accepted as such by your employer, speak to your doctor.
If, however, your sickness has nothing to do with your pregnancy, you can claim SSP up to the week that the baby is due or the date you’ve chosen your maternity pay to start, and in line with the usual eligibility.
If you are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, then you are not eligible for SSP.
If you are pregnant, due to give birth in four weeks’ time or less, and your illness is pregnancy-related, then you are not eligible for SSP.
Zero hours contracts and gig economy workers
A zero-hour contract is an employment contract that states that the employer has no obligation to provide the employee with any working hours, and the employee has no obligation to accept any hours or work offered to them by the employer.
Gig economy workers are those who work on short-term contracts and on a freelance basis, instead of in permanent employment. The term comes from the fact that they work individual ‘gigs’, such as a car journey, and are paid on that basis.
Zero hours contracts
Even though you are on a zero hours contract, you are still an employee and therefore have statutory employment rights.
As soon as you have earned the lower earnings limit, you are eligible to receive SSP from your employer within the usual guidelines for eligibility.
Gig economy workers
Following the Taylor Review into Modern Working Practices in 2017, the British government has concluded that businesses who use ‘gig economy workers’ must pay SSP to these workers, bearing in mind the usual rules of eligibility.
Further consultations may be arranged by the British government to decide on how a gig economy worker’s rights to SSP will be enforced.
Why legal advice is important
With the correct procedures in place, claiming for statutory sickness pay can be a straightforward process with a satisfactory outcome, but in situations where you feel that your individual case is not clear-cut, or you can’t come to an agreement with your employer, legal advice can prove invaluable in settling the matter in your favour.