Employee Entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a weekly amount paid to employees:
- For the days that they would usually be working (also called ‘qualifying days’).
- In the same format as their regular wages (e.g. on payday after the deduction of tax and National insurance).
You can work out the daily rate using the Statutory Sick Pay calculator.
Important: Under UK employment law, employers cannot force their employees to take annual leave while they meet the eligibility criteria for sick leave.
When Does SSP Start and Stop?
Employers need to start paying Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) once any of their employees have been sick for at least four (4) consecutive days (includes non-working days).
Any day that an employee works for at least one (1) minute – and then goes home sick – will not count as a sick day.
The second day is the day that counts as a sick day in situations where an employee works a shift that finishes on the day after it started if they become sick during the actual shift or after it ends.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) would end when an employee returns to work or in circumstances where they no longer qualify (see details below).
Statutory Annual Leave
No matter how long employees take off work, their entitlement to holiday leave will accrue while they are off work sick. Hence, they have the right to request ‘annual leave’ at the same time as sick leave.
Keeping Records of SSP
To reclaim SSP, employers must keep records of any Statutory Sick Pay paid to any employees who have been taking time off work due to the coronavirus outbreak (not required for other illnesses).
Employers need to keep records of these particular SSP payments for a period of three (3) tax years, showing:
- Dates when employees were off sick and which of the dates were ‘qualifying days’.
- The National Insurance numbers of the employees and the reasons they gave for being off work.
Note: Keeping records of absence from work by employees due to sickness is not mandatory. But, HMRC may ask to see any records kept in cases of SSP payment disputes.
Employees Off Work Due to COVID-19
Employers must pay SSP to any of their employees who are off work for at least four (4) days and have coronavirus symptoms, or (either):
- Are self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms or because they got notification from the NHS or public health authorities that they came into contact with someone with it.
- Are ‘shielding’ (e.g. they have a letter from the NHS or a GP telling them to stay at home for at least twelve weeks).
You would need to pay them from the first ‘qualifying day’ that they take off work – either on or after:
- 13th of March 2020 (employees with coronavirus symptoms or self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms).
- 16th of April 2020 (employees who are shielding).
- 28th of May 2020 (employees notified by the NHS or Public Health that they came into contact with someone with coronavirus).
How to Reclaim Statutory Sick Pay
Most employers can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to each employee (up to £99.35 a week) due to coronavirus (COVID-19) if (all):
- The employee was away from work because they had coronavirus, they were self-isolating, or they were shielding.
- You had less than 250 employees and your PAYE payroll scheme started no later than the 28th of February 2020.
The GOV.UK website explains more about business support for those affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the United Kingdom.
Note: Some employers offer sick pay rates above the minimum amount through company schemes (e.g. contractual or occupational). Another section explains how Statutory Sick Pay for employees works.
Qualifying for Statutory Sick Pay
To meet the eligibility criteria for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for one or more jobs, employees must:
- Have an employment contract (and already performed some work under the contract).
- Have been sick for at least four (4) days in a row (called the ‘period of incapacity for work’).
- Be earning an average of at least £123 per week.
- Have given the correct notice to their employer (see fit notes below) along with proof of illness (only required after taking seven days off work).
In certain cases, employees can qualify for SSP in one job, but be fit for work in a different one. An example is being unable to do physical work for one job but being capable of doing office-based work in another.
The sick pay calculator allows employers to work out the SSP rate for employees who qualify but have less than eight (8) weeks of earnings.
Note: According to employee holiday entitlement rights, taking annual leave does not interrupt their period of incapacity for work.
When Employees Do Not Qualify for SSP
SSP exceptions apply to all employees once they have received the maximum amount available (e.g. 28 weeks) or in situations where they:
- Are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) during their Maternity Pay Period (MPP) or Maternity Allowance Period (MAP). You can read further guidance on the GOV.UK website if your employee is pregnant.
- Are away from work due to a pregnancy-related illness during the four weeks prior to the week (Sunday to Saturday) that their baby is due.
- Were on strike or in police custody on the first day of their sickness (includes any linked periods of sickness).
- Receive Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) within twelve (12) weeks of starting or returning to work as your employee.
- Are working outside the European Union whereby the employer is not liable for their National Insurance (NI) contributions.
Linking Periods of Sickness
In some cases, employees can connect regular periods of time of work as ‘linked periods of sickness’. To do so, they must:
- Continue for at least four (4) days each.
- Be no more than eight (8) weeks apart.
Important: To qualify for SSP, a continuous series of linked periods must not go beyond a period of three (3) years.
If an Employee is Not Entitled to SSP
Employers must use SSP1 form when their employee is not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or in situations when their SSP is ending. Doing so will support their application for:
In cases where an employee’s claim for SSP is coming to an end, employers must send them form SSP1 (either):
- No later than seven (7) days of their SSP ending in situations where it ends unexpectedly while they are still sick. The same time limit applies to employees who do not qualify for SSP.
- No later than the beginning of the 23rd week in situations where their SSP is expected to end before their sickness.
Note: Form SSP1 also informs employees how to make an appeal to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they feel they have been treated ‘unfairly’ by their employer.
Employees with a Long-term Illness
Employers can choose to complete form SSP1 before SSP ends (e.g. if an employee will be off sick for more than 28 weeks). Doing so allows them to apply for Employment and Support Allowance before it actually finishes.
Giving Notice and Fit Notes
Unless you have an agreed time limit with your employee, they should tell you about their sickness within seven (7) days. Even so, employers cannot:
- Demand notice from employees ‘in person’ or by use of any particular ‘special form’.
- Ask for proof of sickness until the time taken off work reaches a period of seven days (including non-working days).
Note: Employers do not have to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees who give late notice – unless they provide a valid reason for the delay.
What if your employee is shielding because of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19)? The time limit for telling employees would depend on when they received their letter telling them to stay at home (e.g. from a GP or the NHS).
Employees should tell their employer that they are shielding no later than the 23rd of April 2020 if they got their letter before the 16th of April.
They should tell their employer within the agreed time limit or within seven (7) days if they received a letter since the 16th of April 2020.
Asking for Proof of Sickness
Employers can ask employees for proof of sickness once they have taken seven (7) days off sick (including non-working days). In most cases, this will be (any):
- A fit note (also called ‘sick note’) from a hospital or doctor issued to people with an illness.
- An NHS isolation note (e.g. from 111) or notification from the NHS or public health authorities for people who are self-isolating and cannot work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- A letter from the NHS or GP telling them to stay at home for a minimum of twelve (12) weeks due to their increased risk of getting coronavirus.
Employers can also accept an Allied Health Professional (AHP) Health and Work report (e.g. from a podiatrist, physiotherapist, or occupational therapist).
Note: You cannot withhold SSP if an employee is late sending you a fit note or isolation note. HMRC has further guidance on assessing employee fitness to work.
Getting Help with Sick Pay
How to Reclaim Statutory Sick Pay
As a rule, employers can reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if their employee is taking time off work due to the coronavirus disease.
HM Revenue and Customs pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees who continue working after being sick when a company becomes insolvent. These employees can get further guidance from:
Statutory Payment Disputes Team
Note: You should use form SSP1 to terminate a contract if their sickness continues so they can make a claim Employment and Support Allowance.