Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a payment that an employer is required to make if you, as their employee, are away from work due to illness. It is an underlying regulation that is often superseded by employers’ own sick pay schemes and is enforced by law.
The first thing to do if you are sick is to check your employment contract. Many employers require that sick employees telephone by a certain time to announce their illness and all have a period of self-certification (usually seven days), during which a medical certificate is not required. It is very important to avoid breaching contract.
After the period of self-certification (again dependant on your contract), you will need to see your doctor and obtain a medical certificate. This will either give a certain period of time for recovery or a specific date to return to work. Throughout the period of illness, every day must be covered by a certificate – this is essential. Your employer will want the original for their files, so it’s worth taking a copy.
To be eligible for SSP, three conditions must be met: period of employment, amount of pay and period of sickness. These rules apply for permanent or agency employees (although the latter had different rules before the end of October 2008).
Firstly, you must have been employed by the same company for the eight weeks prior to your claim for sick pay. If the period of employment is shorter than this, it is up to the employer to decide if they wish to pay or not.
Secondly, you must have been earning enough money to make National Insurance contributions. In real terms, this works out to about 90 per week (gross). If your earnings are below this level, the employer is not obliged to pay.
Thirdly, you must have been sick for at least four days (weekends and bank holidays included) before you can claim SSP – that is, one day after the standard period of self-certification.
If all three conditions are met, your employer must pay you at least the basic amount of SSP. At present, this is £75.40 per week (assuming you work full-time). Of course, if the company has their own sickness scheme, you may receive more. You should also bear in mind that you can’t claim SSP at the same time as Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
Two closing comments are also worthwhile. If you are not eligible or do not receive the full SSP amount (or even if you do, but have a partner who isn’t working), you can usually get government benefits, so contact your local JobCentre Plus; and if you are sick for more than three months, after which it is unlikely your employer will continue payments (and you may even lose your job, dependant on circumstances), you will be eligible for benefits at a higher rate – the period of sickness is considered to have started at the beginning of SSP payments.
Full details of SSP (including what you should do if you should be receiving it and aren’t) can be found on the DirectGov site.
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