Do I legally have to give my employees sick pay benefits?

When considering the issue of sick pay, businesses need to consider what they will be expected to pay (SSP), and what they might like to offer in addition to this (contractual sick pay).

The Basics of sick pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is payable to staff at the rate of £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks. You may choose to offer more than this to your staff, but you are legally not able to provide less than this amount as long as the staff member is eligible for SSP.

Many criteria must be met before an employee is eligible to receive sick pay. These include:

  • having signed a contract of employment with you
  • completing some work under this contract
  • being ill for 4 or more days in a row
  • giving you proof of sickness after having been off for seven days in a row
  • earning at least £118 a week

An employer only begins paying SSP on the 4th day of absence. It is also important to note that if an employee has been into work and has left to go home ill (regardless of whether they were there for 1 minute or 1 hour!), that day cannot be considered a sick day.

The proof of sickness that is required after a member of staff has been absent for seven days will be in the form of a ‘fit note’ from a doctor or an Allied Health Professionals (AHP) report. Employees should tell you within seven days of their sickness or within a time limit which you specify within their contract. As an employer, you are not able to insist that they tell you in person about their sickness, nor are you able to insist on proof of sickness before the seven days timeframe.

Does sick pay affect annual leave?

When absent from work on sick leave, employees are still able to accrue annual leave regardless of how long their period of absence is. They can take this annual leave off during the period of absence. Employers are not able to force an employee to take annual leave rather than a period of sick leave if employees meet the eligibility criteria laid out above.

Contractual sick pay

Contractual Sick Pay (CSP) is variable from business to business, and there is no statutory obligation to provide it to staff. CSP packages tend to be more generous than SSP and may offer staff a period of full pay followed by a period in which they are paid a percentage of their full wage. If you choose to have a CSP package, this must be laid out in written contracts with staff members. If there is no CSP package, this should also be laid out clearly in writing within the contract. The individual company decides the terms of contractual sick pay packages but typically require employees to have worked for a minimum probationary period.

Although there is no obligation for businesses to offer contractual sick pay, it is important to remember that packages such as this do increase employee loyalty and a general sense that the employees are valued and cared for within the business. Choosing to offer benefits such as this will appeal to potential employees, which will help in the recruitment and retention of staff.

Getting support

If you are still unsure of your position when it comes to paying your employees contractual sick pay, or would like to put together a package for your employees, get in touch and Altum HR can support you in reviewing your current policies.

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