Attendance Management

by Kate Russell

Introduction to SSP

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum level of payment an employer pays to the majority of employees who are off work sick.

SSP is paid to employees who are unable to work because of sickness. It is paid by the employer for up to a maximum of 28 weeks, and in the same way and at the same time as an employee’s normal wages. If SSP ends, an employee can claim Incapacity Benefit.

SSP is not paid for specific illness or treatment but to all employees who are incapable for work and who satisfy the conditions for payment.

An employee must have worked for you under a contract of service.

Some definitions

It is useful to know the jargon connected with SSP.

Lower Earnings Limit (LEL)

This is the minimum level of earnings that an employee’s average weekly earnings must reach, in a specific period, for them to get SSP.

National Insurance contributions (NICs)

Employees who pay Class 1 NICs can, or could if their earnings were high enough, be entitled to SSP.

Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS)

Under this scheme an employer may be able to recover some, or all, of the SSP he has paid to his employees in a tax month.

Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW)

This is a period of sickness lasting at least four or more days in a row. All days of sickness count towards the total number of days, even non-working days. If there are fewer than four consecutive days, there is no PIW and you need take no action.

Qualifying Days (QDs)

SSP is a daily payment and is usually paid for the days that the employee would normally work (Qualifying Days). SSP is not paid for the first three QDs in any period of sickness, unless it falls within a linking period.

You can decide not to use the contracted working days if, for example, your workforce operates a varied work pattern each week. For simplicity, you may want to have the same days each week as the QDs, but you must first reach agreement with your workforce or their representative(s) about which days will be QDs.

There must be at least one QD in each week running from Sunday to Saturday. Bank holidays and other non-working days do not alter the normal pattern of QDs.

Employers are liable to pay this to all their employees who satisfy all the qualifying conditions when they are off work sick.

Waiting Days (WDs)

SSP is not payable for the first three QDs in a PIW. These are called Waiting Days (WDs).

They are not always the first three days of sickness, as the employee may have been sick on non-QDs.

Where PIWs are linked and all three WDs have been served in the first PIW, there will be no WDs in any later linked spells of sickness. But, if all three WDs have not been served in the first PIW, any remaining WDs must be served at the beginning of the next linked PIW or series of linked PIWs.

Week

For working out SSP entitlement and payment, a week is a period of seven days, starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday.

Qualifications

To receive SSP an employee must be:

  • Sick for at least four or more days in a row (including weekends and bank holidays). This is known as a Period of Incapacity for Work.
  • Earning, before tax and National Insurance, an amount equalling or exceeding the LEL.
Note

From 1 October 2006, any qualifying employee receives SSP. The Age Discrimination legislation has removed the requirement that an employee be aged between 16 or over and under 65.

Earnings are averaged over an eight-week period before the employee’s sickness began. This period may vary slightly, depending on whether he is paid weekly or monthly, or at other intervals. If he has just started his job, the calculation may be different.

To get SSP, the employee must notify you that he is sick. If you only pay SSP, you cannot insist that he tells you

  • In person
  • Earlier than the first qualifying day or by a set time
  • On a special form
  • On a medical certificate
  • More than once a week during his sickness.

You can, however, put in specific notification conditions where you pay organisational sick pay.

When the employee has been sick for eight consecutive days, you may ask for evidence that he is sick. This will usually be in the form of a medical note from his doctor.

Withholding payment for late notification

Where notification of illness is late, you can withhold payment of SSP for the period of the delay if the notification was given outside these time limits and you do not accept there was good cause for delay. If you decide to withhold payment, you should treat the date of the late notification as the first day of sick absence.

How long has your employee been sick?

He must be off work sick for four or more days in a row to be able to get SSP from you. However, if your employee has been sick for four or more days in a row and sick absence continues, but he is not entitled to SSP, you must complete form SSP1, or your own computerised version, so that he can claim Incapacity Benefit from the Jobcentre Plus or social security office.

Linking Periods of Incapacity for Work

Where a Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW) is separated from an earlier PIW by eight weeks (that is 56 days) or less, the two absences ‘link’ and are treated as one PIW.

A PIW must always be formed before there can be a link; in other words, your employee must be sick for at least four or more days in a row.

Odd days of sickness do not form a PIW and cannot link.

Employees who are not eligible to be paid SSP by you

If any of the exclusions listed below apply to your employee, he or she is not entitled to SSP and must be given form SSP1.

  • They were not sick for four, or more, days in a row.
  • They always earn less than the lower earnings limit a week.
  • They are within the 18/26 week exclusion period due to pregnancy or recently having had a baby.
  • They have already had 28 weeks worth of SSP from you and this new spell of sickness links to the last one.
  • They were not entitled to SSP the last time they were sick, for any reason, and this spell of sickness links to that one.
  • They were getting Incapacity Benefit from DWP within the last eight weeks.
  • They started or returned to work for you after getting Incapacity Benefit from DWP and they are a Welfare to Work beneficiary who is sick within the first 104 weeks of starting or returning to work for you.

How much will the employee receive?

If the employee’s weekly average earnings before deductions such as tax and National Insurance (NI) reach the LEL or above, he will be eligible to receive SSP.

See the Statutory Rates sheet for the current rate.

Pregnancy

If an employee is receiving SSP for a pregnancy-related illness at the start of or in the four weeks before her baby is due, SSP will stop and any entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) will start automatically.

If she is entitled to SMP or MA, she will not receive SSP for 26 weeks, starting with the day of entitlement to those payments.

If she is not entitled to SMP or MA, she will not receive SSP for 18 weeks, starting with either the Sunday of the week her baby is born or the Sunday of the week she is absent from work for a pregnancy-related illness.