It is a requirement to pay employees a minimum rate of pay when they are off sick, provided they meet certain qualifying conditions. Statutory Sick Pay can be a complicated business and the introduction of the ‘phased return’ from sickness absence can make it even more difficult.
Statutory Sick Pay
- Employees must have performed some work for an employer in order to be paid SSP during sickness absence; a period of sickness starting on day one of employment will not attract any SSP.
- Employees must also earn on average at least £112 per week in order to qualify for SSP (this will increase to £113 in April 2017). Other qualifying rules also apply.
- SSP is currently £88.45 per week, increasing to £89.35 in April 2017.
Period of incapacity for work
- In order to receive SSP, an employee must be sick for at least 4 days, called a ‘period of incapacity for work’ (PIW), and these can include non-working days.
- Within a PIW, SSP will only be payable from the 4th missed day of work. This is because the first 3 days missed are ‘waiting days’, for which SSP is not payable. If there are two PIWs in a period of 56 days, the waiting days served in the first PIW are deemed to cover the subsequent absence, and so no further waiting days are needed. SSP would be paid from day 1 of the second bout of sickness provided that a PIW of minimum 4 days was formed.
Phased Return To Work
The overhaul of doctor’s medical certificates (otherwise known as ‘sick notes’) resulted in a new name (‘fit notes’) and a new method for their use. Sick notes simply stated that an employee was not fit for work until a stipulated date. Fit notes allow doctors to include more options than this: they may now recommend that an employee may be fit for work if certain changes are made to the work, including:
- A phased return to work e.g. fewer hours or days per week than normal; or
- The employee undertakes light duties.
Effect of Phased Return To Work on SSP
If the employer agrees that the employee can do a phased return to work on fewer days, for example, 2 days out of 5, then the other 3 days will be classed as sickness absence. Normal SSP rules will apply and so in order for SSP to be paid, a PIW (4 consecutive days of sickness) must be formed.
However, the arrangement of the working days will affect the formation of a PIW. If Monday and Thursday are working days, there will never be sufficient days in between to form a PIW, and so no SSP will be due on the sick days in between. If Thursday and Friday are working days, a PIW will be formed in between and the linking rules mean that the 3 required waiting days will already have been served and so sick days in between will attract SSP.