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UK employees were absent for an average of 7.8 days last year, the highest in over a decade and 2 days more than the pre-pandemic rate of 5.8 days. 

“Despite our research showing that most organisations are focusing on employee wellbeing, the considerable rise in absences across all sectors is a worry.”

Rachel Suff, Senior Employee Wellbeing adviser at the CIPD

Your employees will get sick at some point. It’s a fact of life.

As an employer, it’s important to understand your responsibilities regarding time off and statutory sick pay (SSP). This includes knowing when your employees are eligible for pay during sickness, when SSP starts, how much they are entitled to, and what happens when their SSP entitlement ends.

We know there’s a lot to digest, that’s why we wrote this blog, so you can have a much better understanding of your obligations as an employer when it comes to sick leave in the UK. 

What is sick leave in the UK? 

SSP is a payment required by the government for eligible employees unable to work due to illness. It applies to part-time and fixed-term contract workers who have been off work for at least 4 working days (up to 28 weeks).

Self-employed individuals do not receive SSP. 

How much is statutory sick pay in the UK?

The weekly rate of SSP for 2024/25 is £116.75, up from £109.70 in 2023/24.

You must pay at least this minimum amount of SSP when providing sick pay. SSP is paid weekly or monthly, following your usual pay schedule. 

Who’s entitled to claim sick leave in the UK?

Any part-time or fixed-term employee can claim statutory sick pay if they meet government requirements.

To qualify for SSP, employees must prove they’re ill. They can self-certify for up to seven days, but sick leave longer than a week requires a doctor’s note.

Employees must also follow any additional company procedures when reporting absences.

Who pays for sick leave in the UK? 

Under the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982, you pay SSP.

You should include all SSP payments in an employee’s regular weekly or monthly payslip. You also need to make sure you deduct the necessary tax and national insurance contributions. 

Exceptions where you’re not required to pay SSP:

  • If an employee makes less than an average of £123 per week. 
  • If an employee has been off sick for three days or less (unless related to Covid-19)
  • If an employee failed to notify you of their absence in line with your internal procedures for absences.
  • If an employee has already exceeded their 28-week SSP allowance.
  • If an employee has failed to supply you with evidence of their illness.
  • If an employee is working outside the EU and you are not liable for their National Insurance contributions.
  • If an employee has received Employment and Support Allowance within 12 weeks of starting or returning to work for you.
  • If an employee is already receiving Statutory Maternity Pay, or is off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks prior to their due date.

When does statutory sick pay officially start?

UK sick leave starts on the fourth day of an employee’s absence, called the first “qualifying” day.

The initial 3 days are “waiting days,” meaning no pay unless they’ve received SSP in the past 8 weeks, including a 3-day waiting period.

If an absence is 3 days or less, you’re not legally required to pay, but many companies offer sick pay from day one. If this is the case for you, ensure that all terms are clearly outlined in your employment policies.

What happens when SSP runs out?

If an employee reaches the 28-week limit for SSP due to long-term sick leave, they have options if your company doesn’t offer extended sick pay.

Encourage them to apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit by providing them with an SSP1 form at least 7 days before their SSP entitlement ends (unless they’re returning to work). It’s advisable to start this process earlier, as ESA applications can take time – ideally at least 3 months before SSP expiry.

Even after SSP entitlement ends, it’s important to remember there’s still an employment contract between you and your employee. Employees should keep you updated on their sickness and return-to-work estimates.

You should maintain open communication and ensure clarity on sickness policy and procedures to avoid confusion or disputes. 

Sick leave FAQs

Can you reclaim SSP?

Unfortunately, since 6 April 2014, businesses are no longer able to reclaim SSP from the Government.

What is the maximum amount of SSP that can be paid during a period of sickness? 

The maximum amount of SSP that can be paid for a period of sickness is £3269. This is often referred to as 28 weeks of SSP, but it’s more accurate to view it as a pot of £3269. 

 What should you do when an employee returns to work after sick leave?

When an employee returns to work after being off sick, you should schedule a meeting to make sure: 

  • They are well enough to work. 
  • They have any support they need. 

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