When should statutory sick payments cease being paid?
Typically, as an employer you would cease to pay SSP on an unwell employee’s return to work. However, if their illness transitions to constitute long-term sick leave, SSP ceases after 28 weeks of absence.
Statutory sick payments also stop if an employee has had liked periods of sickness, separated by less than 8 weeks, which have lasted for longer than three years. At this stage, you should inform the employee in question that they will need to look to claim Employment Support Allowance going forward, and send them an SSP1 form to fill in.
SSP can also cease to be paid if an employee starts to receive statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
What is contractual sick pay?
Contractual sick pay, also known as company sick and occupational sick pay, constitutes a scheme that employers instigate in order to pay their own rate of sick pay to employees. This will go above and beyond SSP entitlement.
Many employers choose not to pay out extra funds to unwell staff, but equally, many consider contractual sick pay to be a great investment that can become a valuable and attractive part of their company benefits package.
It is up to individual companies how much they choose to pay their employees under a contractual sick pay scheme, but it must be more than basic SSP entitlement. As a minimum, most companies would choose to pay their employees fully for the first three consecutive days of sick leave before SSP kicks in on the fourth day. Others top up basic SSP to a more ‘livable’ level, and some choose to pay full salaries for a set period of time, e.g. three or six months.
Some firms choose to open up contractual sick pay entitlement to all staff from the very first day of their employment, whilst others reserve it as an extra perk for those who have reached a set service milestone with the company. Whatever you decide to do, it is important to decide exactly what level of sick pay you can realistically afford prior to introducing any scheme within your business.
What should a sick pay policy contain?
Regardless of whether you choose to just pay SSP, or introduce a more generous occupational sick pay scheme, you must ensure that you keep adequate records on all matters relating to employee sickness within your workplace. This includes having a clear and concise sick pay policy, that outlines guidance on matters such as:
- Details of employee entitlement, if they differ (E.g. Those with three or more years of service might have contractual sick pay, whilst others yet to reach that milestone may just be entitled to SSP).
- How many days or weeks of company sick pay employees are entitled to
- Any situations where an employee may not qualify for company sick (E.g. If someone is injured whilst playing a dangerous sport)
- The process for informing a line manager if an employee is sick. For example, must they telephone a certain person / line manager by a certain time on the first morning of the illness?
Can employees take holiday during their sick leave?
You should be aware that employees continue to accrue annual leave entitlement whilst they are absent from work due to sickness. They can also choose to take annual leave during a period of sick leave. As an employer, however, you cannot force an employee to take sick leave as annual leave.
For example, if your employee takes two weeks of annual leave during a four week period of sick leave – giving a total absence of six weeks – their sick leave will still be considered to be one continuous four week period. The employee in question will still be entitled to SSP for the final two weeks of that period.
Is contact allowed during sick leave?
It is acceptable to keep in regular contact with an employee during sick leave, especially if it is due to a long-term or serious condition or illness, but you must ensure that you reach an agreement with the employee in question first. This should outline how often and in what way contact can be made.
Contact during sick leave should primarily aim to:
- Check on the employee’s wellbeing, and discuss any problems or concerns
- Clarify exactly what level of pay the employee will be receiving, and for how long
- Understand if there is anything that your business could be doing to better the support your employee, or to facilitate their return to work
- Explain any updates or changes that may be taking place within the organisation