What is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and how much pay are employees
entitled to?

Most employees will get sick at some point. It’s a fact of life. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2021 “an estimated 149.3 million working days were lost because of sickness or injury in the UK in 2021, equivalent to 4.6 days per worker.”

Managing illness in the workplace can create a range of problems for businesses. All businesses need to be aware of what they are required to do when staff are out of the workplace because of illness and be aware of what support employees are entitled to – such as Statutory Sick Pay.

What is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

Statutory Sick Pay is the government-mandated required minimum payments for when an employee is off sick and cannot work. As an employer, you would pay it to employees in the same way and time that you normally pay their wages. This pay is not included in the Benefits cap that limits the total benefits an employee may be eligible for. If an employee is collecting SSP, you should accurately record all the details of your employee’s absence and sick pay payments just in case this information is audited in the future. Taking care of the health and wellbeing of your employees can have a positive impact on your business, so it’s important that you understand sick pay and how to pay it.

While SSP is the minimum requirement, many businesses may have their own enhanced sick pay scheme. If you opt to offer more than the statutory requirements, then this should be written into your employees’ contracts explaining explicitly what you are offering. Offering more than the minimum requirement can be a helpful way to attract and retain top talent as it helps you stand out as an employer with good benefits.

How much does SSP cost an employer?

After an employee has been sick for four consecutive working days, they become eligible for SSP. The SSP weekly amount has risen over time to reflect the growing costs of living and in 2022, it is £99.35 per week for up to a maximum of 28 weeks.

In the past, there have been schemes to help pay for SSP such as the Percentage Threshold Scheme which ended in 2014 or the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme which ended in early 2022. Currently, there is not assistance for covering an employee’s sick pay and employers are solely responsible for this.

When to stop paying SSP?

You no longer have to pay an employee’s SSP once they return to work or they stop qualifying for it. If the employee is about to stop qualifying for SSP but are unable to return to work, there’s a few things you should do as their employer.

First, you’ll need to send then an SSP1 form within 7 days of SSP ending if it ends unexpectedly or by the 23rd week of claiming SSP if their SSP eligibility is expected to end before their sickness does. Part of this involves encouraging your employee to apply for alternative support such as Employment and Support Allowance or Universal Credit (ESA). If you’re able to send them the SSP1 earlier than seven days, that is better as it gives the employee more time to apply for new benefits so that there’s no gap in support between SSP ending and ESA beginning.

While you’re no longer responsible for financial support if an employee transitions onto ESA instead of SSP, there is still a contract between you and the employee. As such it is expected that they keep you updated on their sickness and when you might be able to expect them back at work.

SSP record keeping

Employers are not required to keep records of SSP that are paid to their employees, however it can be helpful to do so. Keeping record of employee sickness absences can help if there’s any disputes over payment of SSP and HMRC makes a request to see your record. Since this record keeping is not required, you are able to choose what format you keep those records in – there is no standard format.

How much is Statutory Sick Pay?

SSP rate in UK: The rate is a fixed amount in the UK of £99.35 per week. However, it is possible to use a daily SSP rate if your employee isn’t off for the whole week. How much you need to pay will vary depending on how many days the usually work and how many days they’re off sick, so you should refer to the government website’s daily SSP rate information.

SSP example: When you’re calculating SSP, it helps to consider that a full week starts from Sunday and ends at midnight on the Saturday after. If you have employees that worth out with the Monday to Friday work week, this should make it easier to count the number of full weeks they were absent. After you calculate the number of full weeks, you would be able to add any additional partial weeks to this.

Let’s walk through an example: A member of staff becomes ill on Tuesday 4 October and is off work through Thursday 20 October – returning to their job on October 21st. The first three days of sick leave are not payable, so the sick pay begins on Friday 7 October.

The employee is off for 13 days in total and is eligible for sick pay on 10 of those days. In the week ending 8 October, they were only eligible for SSP on one working day so that week they are paid £19.87 which is the one-day rate. The following week, they are off for the full week and will receive the full £99.35 amount. The last week, they are sick for 4 days out of the 5-day week and therefore get £79.48 of sick pay before returning to their normal earnings level when they come back to work on Friday 21 October.

This totals to £198.70 in sick pay for the 13 days that they have taken in absence.

SSP calculator: It can get complicated to figure out sick pay, especially if there’s linked periods of incapacity for work (ie less than 8 weeks between absences). If you’re struggling to figure out how much sick leave you need to pay an employee, the UK Government has a sick pay calculator you can use.

Who qualifies for Statutory Sick Pay?

Any employee is legally entitled to SSP if they meet the following criteria:

If you can pay off any debts such as loans or interest, it can help to improve your liquidity ratio

Have been sick for four full days in a row or more (this can include non-working days)

They earn at least £123 per week, pre tax, on average

Have given you notice of their illness

Have given proof of illness from a qualified professional after they’ve taken seven work days off

Followed any rules you have regarding eligibility for enhanced sick pay

Aren’t in one of the ineligible categories

Even if an employee meets the above criteria, they may be ineligible if they have already received SSP for 28 days and haven’t been back at work for at least eight weeks.

Also note that you cannot ask an employee for a fit note or proof of illness until they have been off for more than seven consecutive days. These notes should be from a doctor or hospital, though you, as the employer, can choose to accept proof in the form of an Allied Health Professional Health and Work report if you wish.

Is there help for those that aren’t eligible for SSP?

Employees will be ineligible for SSP if they:

Have already had SSP for 28 weeks and have not been back at work for eight weeks

Have benefitted from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in the last 12 weeks

Are currently receiving statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance

Are pregnant and the baby is due in 4 weeks or less and the illness is pregnancy-related

Have had a baby in the last 14 weeks

Are in the armed forces

Are in legal custody (either detained by the police or in prison)

Are an agricultural worker (read about agricultural sick pay on GOV.UK)

Earn less than £123 per week

Those who are self-employed also do not qualify for SSP. If an employee does not qualify for SSP based on not earning enough, they could claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. If an employee does not qualify for other reasons or their SSP is ending, they could look into other benefits like Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). For employees who aren’t entitled to SSP, you have to send them an SSP1 form within seven days of them taking sick leave.

Is there SSP for self-employed?

Usually, self-employed people are not eligible for many benefits that employees may be entitled to. This is something to consider when deciding on the structure of your business – whether you set up as a sole trader or a limited company.

If you’ve set up as a sole trader or a partnership, you cannot claim SSP as one of your benefits as you are not considered to be an employee of your business. However, if you’re the director of a limited company, you will be eligible for the same SSP benefits that you give employees.

SSP for self-employed limited company directors

The director of a limited company is considered to be an employee of their business, so they will be eligible for the same SSP payments as any other employee. That means £99.35 per week for up to 28 weeks.

The same restrictions apply as well, such as needing to be sick for up to four days, having to earn £123 per week on average.

What can self-employed sole traders & partners claim?

Since sole traders and partnerships are not considered to be employees of their business, they cannot claim SSP. Instead, they must look to other benefits to help during periods of illness. Here are a few of the benefits that you might want to explore if you’re self employed and are on a leave of absence due to illness:

Universal Credit
This payment was created to help with the cost of living if you’re on a low income or out of work. Usually, it is paid as a set amount each month and may be able to help make ends meet if you’re unable to work due to illness.

This payment was created to help with the cost of living if you’re on a low income or out of work. Usually, it is paid as a set amount each month and may be able to help make ends meet if you’re unable to work due to illness.

If you live with a partner, their income and savings are also taken into account when deciding if you qualify for Universal Credit. The UK Government website has a benefits calculator that can help you understand whether or not you’re eligible and how much you might be able to claim.

Employment & Support Allowance
If a long-term illness or disability is preventing you from working, you might qualify for weekly Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments. In order to get ESA, you’ll need to meet certain requirements such as paying National Insurance contributions for two years, not claiming Job Seekers’ Allowance and being under the State Pension age. You can check the full requirements on the UK Government Website.

Council Tax Reduction
If you’re on low income, you may be able to reduce your council tax bills or stop paying council tax entirely. On the UK Government website, there is a postcode checker for council tax reduction that you can use to find out more about this benefit and how it works in your local council.

What you’re eligible for will depend on your circumstances, the overall household income and whether or not other people live with you.

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All links are checked and valid at time of publishing, 11 January 2023.