As an employee Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) can be claimed if you cannot work due to illness. Sick pay can be paid to an employee for a period of up to 28 weeks and it is a statutory entitlement.
If you are an employee whether you are full time, part time, fixed term or employed through a recruitment agency you are entitled to sick pay. The payments will commence from the fourth day of your sickness absence.
If however, you have been absent from work anytime within the past two months you can claim statutory sick pay from the first day of your absence.
During your sick leave, there are certain rules and regulations that your employer must abide by.
As an example, they cannot say that an employee must call the office by a certain time of day or a medical certificate can’t be obtained until the eighth day of absence.
However, the employer can assign certain rules to contractual sick pay
An employer has to meet the cost of sick pay in the same way they pay your normal wages.
National insurance and tax contributions are deducted from the weekly rate of statutory sick pay and you will receive a fixed weekly amount of £87.55 or more if stated in your contract of employment. If your circumstances allow, you can also receive income support while you are in receipt of statutory sick pay.
If you are off work due to illness your employer will usually issue you with a form to complete within the first week that you are absent from work.
You can also write to your employer or phone them.
It is always recommended though that you do phone them because the date of the postmark will be used to determine the day that you informed your employer.
After you have been off work for a week due to sickness you will need to obtain a doctors certificate to ensure that you receive sick pay.
Informing your employer as soon as possible is important. If you fail to do this you could lose a certain amount or in some instances, all of your sick pay unless there is a very good reason for the delay in informing your employer.
Types of Sick Pay
There are currently two methods of payment allocated to sickness absence;
- Statutory Sick Pay – Some employers will have their own arrangements in place for sick pay and if your employer does run their own scheme you will be paid under this. Alternatively, if you don’t have any entitlement under your employers own pay scheme, your employer should still pay you statutory sick pay provided that you fit the eligibility criteria.
- Company Sick Pay – Some employers may provide a more generous sick pay scheme but they cannot manage their own scheme and pay a figure that is less than the lowest level of SSP which has been determined by law.
When you are appointed into any new role, this information should be provided either as part of your employment contract or in a written statement of particulars. Employers who don’t offer any provision for sick pay must say so and provide a written statement to this effect.
Company Sick Pay Schemes
With a company scheme different employers will adopt a different approach. Employees usually receive sick pay after they have been with their employer for a minimum period of time which can be anything from a few months to a year or more.
Once you are entitled to receive the payment and you are absent from work due to ill health you are entitled to receive your full pay during a specified time period. After this you will then receive half pay for a set period of time before any additional sick leave becomes unpaid.
Employers may request that employees follow certain procedures during sickness absence and they should inform you how you tell them that you are unwell and who you should report to. For many businesses, an employee can self certify for a week but any time beyond this a doctor’s note would be required.
Discretion of the Employer
Any employer can make exceptions and pay sick pay even if you don’t fit the eligibility criteria under company rules. Some sick pay programmes state that any sick pay is at the discretion of the employer.
If an employer thinks that the leave is not justified, they can refuse to pay the SSP.
If your place of work doesn’t have any specific schemes to deal with pay for absence during illness, you must receive Statutory Sick Pay provided that you fit the qualifying criteria.
Work Related Sickness
Rates of pay for absence due to illness aren’t usually affected, even if it is caused by your work, but your employer may have in place a scheme for work related illness. If your employer has to take responsibility for your illness then you may be able to make a personal injury claim whether it is psychological such as stress or a physical injury resulting from manual handling or incorrect working practices.
There are certain situations when you can claim sick pay including;
- When you are off work due to workplace stress
- If your absence is due to an accident while at work
- Time you have to take off to care for a sick dependant. Your employer does not have to pay you for time off for this reason unless your contract says so
- Time off for dependants, sometimes referred to as compassionate leave
Entitlement to Annual Leave
If you are sick while you are on holiday taken from work, you can build up a total of four weeks statutory paid holidays like any other employee. Holiday entitlement is still accrued even if you are off work due to sickness.
In addition, if an employee is off work and accrues annual leave during a long period of sickness absence, they are permitted to carry their leave entitlement over to the next year.
Employees are also able to use their paid holidays as sick days and this usually occurs when there is no provision for sick pay or the employee doesn’t qualify.
If you are in any doubt about your entitlements, you should speak with your employer in the first instance.
There are certain steps that you can take if you have problems receiving the sick pay that you are entitled to;
- Check your contract of employment to determine the amount that you should receive
- Ask your employer (or HR department if there is one) whether there are any problems with paying sick pay
- Research your rights and eligibility for statutory sick pay
- If you don’t agree with an employer’s decision on payment for SSP you can ask them to put their reasons in writing.
A local HMRC office can decide whether they have the right to do this and if it is found that your employer is refusing to make the required payments for sickness absence this is referred to as an unlawful deduction from your wages and you should seek further advice from Citizens Advice or a legal professional.
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This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.