We regularly ask our clients whether they know their sick pay entitlement, and most people simply don’t know. A 2018 survey showed that only 4% of employees knew the answer to this question, confirming that this lack of awareness is widespread. The same survey also found that many people assumed that they would just continue to receive their full salary. The reality, however, often comes as a shock.
Does my employer have to pay me sick pay?
If you are too ill to work for four or more days in a row (including non-working days), and for a maximum period of up to 28 weeks, your employer is legally required to pay you the minimum Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) of just £94.25 per week – so long as you:
- have actually done some work for the company,
- are earning at least £118/week on average under an employment contract, and
- have given the company the ‘correct notice’.
Note that SSP is subject to tax and NI deductions!
Some employers offer a Sick Pay Scheme (also known as an Occupational Scheme) as an employee benefit. In this case the company determines the terms of this sick pay – how much, when it comes into effect and for hon glong. The terms cannot be worse than the terms of SSP, and the terms should write the terms into your contract.
What is the ‘correct notice’ and do I have to supply a sick note (fit note)?
Your employer decides the guidelines for giving the ‘correct notice’ so be sure you know what the guidelines are at your place of work so that you don’t risk losing your SSP. While your employer can decide what the rules of giving notice should be, they cannot insist that you tell them in person, or on a special form. If your employer does not set out a guidelines for giving notice, the SSP fallback is that you must tell your employer within seven days.
You also do not need to supply a sick note until you have been sick more than seven days in a row, including non-working days. Your employer cannot ask for a sick note until then.
Who is not entitled to receive SSP?
If you are self-employed you cannot receive SSP.
SSP is a legal right for anyone who is employed, but as always there are exceptions. There are different sick pay rules for agricultural workers, and if you are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, or if you are off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before your baby is due, you have no right to SSP. There are a few other circumstances where you may not receive SSP. You can learn more at the link below.
What happens if I am off work for longer than 28 weeks?
Once your entitlement to SSP expires after 28 weeks, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
You will also lose your entitlement to SSP if you take a series of linked periods of four days or more off work that last longer than three years. A linked period is one where there are fewer than 8 weeks between the periods.
Will I receive sick pay if I am off work for fewer than 4 days?
Under SSP you will not receive sick pay until you have been off work for four or more days, i.e. your statutory sick pay starts on day four. The first three days are known as the ‘waiting period’.
If you have a second period off work where you are again entitled to SSP, and the period between is less than eight weeks (a linked period), then you get SSP from day one of the second period.
A company Occupational Sick Pay scheme may give you cover sooner than the four day SSP wait period.
What can I do to protect myself if my sick pay is not enough to cover bills?
Income Protection Insurance is a low-cost way to make up the salary shortfall if you are off work due to an accident or illness and your sick pay isn’t enough to cover bills. If you are self employed then Income Protection insurance is you only form of ‘sick pay’!
With Income Protection Insurance you pay a small monthly premium so that if you are off work, you receive an income according to the terms of your insurance plan.
The monthly premium for your plan will vary depending on the amount of income you need as well as factors such as your age, whether you do motor or equestrian sports, the payout period and the wait period.
Unlike SSP, Precise Protect’s plans can cover your from day one of your sickness, and also, for longer periods than the 28-week SSP limit. If you have a short-term company plan, Income Protection Insurance can provide you cover once your company plan expires. Some plans can cover you up to retirement age, but if you are just comfortable with a shorter-term plan, we have something for you there too.
If you’d like to know more about the Income Protection plans we offer, check out our Simply Income Protection plan or the Motorsports Income Protection plan (also suitable for horse riders) as a first step. Alternatively, request a call back from an experienced advisers who can help you find a plan that meets your need.
I have other questions not answered here – where can I get help?
If you are not sure about your sick pay entitlement you should speak to your employer in the first instance, or contact the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) statutory payment dispute team.
HMRC statutory payment dispute team
Telephone: 03000 560 630
Monday to Thursday, 8:30am to 5pm
Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm
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