Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is paid to employees who are unable to work because of illness. SSP is paid at the same time and in the same way as you would pay wages for the same period.
This guide gives an overview of the SSP scheme. It explains when you need to pay SSP and when you don't, and tells you how to deal with long and frequent absences. It also links to information about calculating and recovering SSP.
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As an employer you're responsible for operating the SSP scheme, which includes making payments to employees who meet certain qualifying conditions. The weekly rate of SSP for days of sickness from 6 April 2013 is £86.70.
You must put your sickness policy in a written statement of employment particulars and give a copy to all employees who have worked for you for at least a month.
If you keep paying your employees their normal wage when they're sick - and you pay them at least as much as the SSP they are entitled to - you don't have to operate the SSP scheme.
If you have a high proportion of your workforce off sick at the same time you may be able to recover some or all of the SSP you pay from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The following conditions must be met in order for an employee to receive SSP:
If your employee's earnings are below the LEL, or they're not entitled to SSP for some other reason, they may be entitled to other financial support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Payments of SSP count as earnings. You must deduct PAYE tax and NICs from them in the usual way. You'll normally be able to recover some or all of the SSP you pay. For more information, see 'Calculating and recovering SSP' on this page.
In practice, most employees who are absent from work because they're sick qualify for SSP. Part-time, casual and temporary employees can also get SSP as long as they meet the qualifying conditions.
An agency worker is entitled to SSP from the first day of their contract provided they satisfy all the other conditions for entitlement. However, like all employees, they must have done some work under that contract to become entitled.
You can read more about the qualifying conditions to get SSP in the HMRC publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay' (see link at the end of this section).
SSP is only payable if there's a PIW. This is a period of four or more days in a row when the employee can't work because they're sick or incapacitated.
The days that make up a PIW don't need to be working days. If an employee normally works from Monday to Friday and they're sick on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday - then that's a PIW. Similarly if they only work Tuesdays and Fridays but are sick on both of these days and also sick on the Wednesday and Thursday between then that's a PIW.
PIWs that are complete (ie those that last at least four consecutive days) and are separated by less than eight weeks are called 'linked PIWs' and are treated in practice as a single PIW (sickness periods that last for less than four consecutive days can't count towards a linked PIW).
You can use HMRC's online SSP Calculators - also part of HMRC's Basic PAYE Tools software package - to work out if two or more PIWs are linked. Alternatively you can use the tables in the HMRC publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay'. For more information, see 'Calculating and recovering SMP' on this page.
SSP isn't payable straight away. The first three qualifying days (days the employee normally works for you) of a PIW are called 'waiting days' and SSP isn't payable; SSP is payable from the first qualifying day after the three waiting days. However, if several PIWs are linked, the waiting days only apply to the first PIW.
You'll normally stop paying SSP when an employee comes back to work. But you may also need to stop paying SSP if your employee:
You can read more about when an employee can be disqualified from getting SSP in HMRC's publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay'.
If an employee stops being entitled to SSP:
If your employee has a long-term illness and you know in advance that they'll be off for more than 28 weeks, you can complete SSP1 in advance. This means that they'll be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance without delay. You must send it to your employee not later than seven days after the day on which entitlement to SSP ends.
If your employee is often away sick or they're off work for a long time, you may want to get medical advice about their condition. You can read more about how to do this in HMRC's publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay'.
If you consider that your employee's incapacity for work lasts longer than would normally be expected you could decide to:
There is a list available in HMRC's publication E14 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay' (see link below) of some of the diagnoses commonly given by doctors as the cause of incapacity on medical certificates or fit notes issued by them. It includes a suggested period of absence from work after which you may wish to consider seeking medical advice.
If you stop paying your employee SSP you must explain your decision to them and give them form SSP1 within seven days of your decision.
If you decide to seek medical advice you may use your own medical advisor or wish to seek a report from your employee's doctor or seek the help from Medical Services. Medical Services has a contract with DWP which allows them to give HMRC advice about your employee's incapacity for work in connection to SSP. If you wish to get advice from Medical Services see HMRC's publication E14 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay' (see link below).
If your employee refuses consent for you to get medical advice about their fitness for work it is up to you to decide what to do next. You could decide that their refusal is sufficient grounds for you to doubt that the incapacity is genuine and stop paying SSP. There is an example of a letter you may wish to use to advise your employee that you consider they are not entitled to SSP for this reason in HMRC's publication E14 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay' (see link below).
On 6 April 2010 the 'sick note' was replaced by the 'fit note'. This revised medical statement continues to allow GPs to advise whether an employee should refrain from work, but can also advise whether it would be appropriate for them to do some work.
This gives employers greater flexibility in managing sickness absence. Where this advice is given, the doctor will provide additional information which will help employers consider whether basic adjustments could be made to assist someone to return to work - for example allowing someone with back pain to take regular breaks away from their desk for exercise. Employers will not be bound to implement the doctor's suggested changes, which will be provided at the discretion of employers and with the agreement of the employee.
Where no changes are made, the medical statement should be considered as evidence of the individual being unfit for work for sick pay purposes.
HMRC's guide 'How to calculate and recover Statutory Sick Pay' explains in detail how to calculate, pay and recover statutory pay (see the link at the end of this section). Daily rates are also shown on the Statutory Sick Pay daily rates table in HMRC's publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay' (see the link at the end of this section).
You normally pay SSP in the same way you pay wages - and at the same time. SSP payments have to be money. You can't give something else instead, such as payments in kind (eg, goods), board and lodging or other services.
The easiest way to work out and record your SSP payments is to use your current commercial payroll software or HMRC's SSP calculator, available to use for free online.
If you use HMRC's Basic PAYE Tools (for more information on these tools see the link below), there are calculators that will work this information out and take it into account when working out your monthly or quarterly payment to HMRC.
HMRC may wish to check that you are operating the SSP scheme correctly. It is down to you to provide proof of this, which is why keeping accurate records is essential. HMRC recommends you record the following:
You can use form SSP2 to record this information - an interactive form is available within HMRC's Basic PAYE Tools software package. You can also download it using the link below or order paper copies from the Employer Orderline.
Use and retain a copy of form SSP1 - or your own equivalent - when your employee has had the maximum amount of SSP and needs to claim Employment and Support Allowance.
You can opt out of the full SSP scheme if you keep paying your employees normally or give them occupational sick pay that's at least as much as the SSP they are entitled to when they're ill. However, you'll still need to keep records of:
You'll also need to record any SSP you've paid on the following:
Remember that almost all employers are required to file their FPS online.
If you determine that your employee isn't entitled to be paid SSP, you must tell them your decision and the reasons for it. You must do this within seven days of receiving your employee's notification of their incapacity to work. This can be done using form SSP1.
Where you have already started to make payments of SSP and before the end of the pay period you decide your employee is no longer entitled to any further payments of SSP you must:
You must do this within seven days of entitlement ending. This can be done using form SSP1.
If your employee doesn't agree with you, they have the right to ask you for a written statement showing:
Your employee can ask for a written statement at any time. If the request is reasonable you must give them the statement within a reasonable time - for example, within seven days of being asked for it.
If you and your employee can't agree on whether or not you should pay SSP, you can ask HMRC for advice by calling the Employer Helpline - you'll find a link to their contact details in 'Help and advice' below. Your employee can also ask HMRC for an opinion or a formal decision if you can't agree.
For more information and advice, see HMRC's publication E14, 'Employer Helpbook for Statutory Sick Pay'.
You can ask a question through HMRC's email query service.
Alternatively you can get advice from the Employer Helpline.
Further guidance on managing sickness and absence is available on the GOV.UK website