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Sick leave and pay

All employees, irrespective of age, are entitled to claim statutory sick pay as long as they have average earnings of at least £118 per week (from 6 April 2019). For SSP purposes an 'employee' is classed as someone who attracts liability for Class 1 National Insurance Contributions, or would do so if his or her income was high enough.
Eligibility begins on the first day of employment - although the employee must have actually started work - on a contract that is to last for at least three months.
Married women and widows who pay reduced NICs may be eligible for SSP if they meet the qualifying conditions.

Key points

  • All employees earning at least the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit, which is £118 per week gross (from 6 April 2019) are eligible for SSP for up to a maximum of 28 weeks. 'Employees' are defined as those liable for Class 1 NICs or those who would be liable if their income was high enough.
  • For the tax year beginning 6 April 2019 statutory sick pay rate will be £94.25 a week (see our ‘Statutory rates’ page for historic rates).
  • Employers can opt out of SSP if they operate their own scheme (contractual sick pay). Payments must be at least equal to what would be received under the statutory provisions.
  • Details of the contractual sick pay scheme must be included in employees' written particulars of employment or employees can be referred to other sources of information such as company handbooks.
  • Employers operating their own arrangements must keep records of qualifying periods of sickness.
  • Decisions on long-term ill-health absentees will have to comply with the Equality Act 2010.
  • Employers are liable for the payment of SSP. Any payments are subject to PAYE, National Insurance and any other usual deductions.
  • SSP is paid only from the fourth consecutive qualifying day of sickness. Absence from work from this day is known as a period of incapacity (PIW). A PIW is the period of time during which an employee is incapable of work.
  • All days including weekends, holidays and days not normally worked are taken into account in calculating the PIW. A PIW which occurs within 56 days of a previous PIW will be linked, counting as one period of sickness.
  • Employees with at least one month's continuous employment who are suspended from work on medical grounds are entitled to remuneration for up to a maximum of 26 weeks.
  • Special rules apply to pregnant employees suspended from work on medical grounds.

Note: the Percentage Threshold Scheme, which allowed employers to recover some or all of the SSP paid to employees, has been abolished but employers have until the end of the tax year 2015-16 to reclaim SSP paid before the end of the tax year 2013-14.

Future developments

Government response to Matthew Taylor review

During 2017, Matthew Taylor published a review which, amongst other things, suggested that SSP should become a day-one entitlement for all workers which is payable regardless of the worker's income. The government stated they would respond to the review by the end of 2017, although this was delayed to the beginning of 2018. The government has now released their response to the Taylor report and have announced they are considering making changes to SSP, including reviewing Taylor's recommendations and looking at a 'right to return' to a job following a period of sickness absence.