We’ve written an article on sick pay this month, mainly to clear something up for our own benefit but also to share a little tidbit with you.

Did you know that for an employee to be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay they need to have been ill for four or more days every time they are off sick, even if the last time they were off sick was within the 56 day (8 week) linking period? Did you also know that the payroll community is split on this, many of the understanding that if someone is off sick just for a day then they qualify for statutory sick pay if they’ve previously been off sick for four days or more in the 56 days prior.

This question came up for us this month as we were updating the Statutory Sick Pay linking rules in Paycircle, so that our users could rely on Paycircle to track an employee’s eligibility without having to look up the rules or track this for themselves.

Our development and payroll compliance team followed the developers guidelines set out by HMRC and also consulted payroll industry specialists and this is when we encountered the mixed opinions. We contacted HMRC for answers and again got a mixed response. HMRC even commented that they would update their website from four days to one day as this was wrong. We decided to go direct to the legislation to get the facts.

Once we’d established that each period of ‘incapacity for work’ needed to be four days or more to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay we set the rules in Paycircle accordingly. However, based upon the mixed opinions in the payroll community, we envisage that we will need to explain ourselves when questioned. Hence the article.

What are our learnings from this? The first one is: don’t bother asking HMRC about such things, just head straight for the legislation. The second one is: any employee who isn’t entitled to occupational sick pay under their employment contract and who understands the rules may be tempted to take four days off even if they are only actually (really) sick for one day! Call us cynical if you like.

A few notes for employers.

You’re not necessarily obliged to pay people when they are off sick. It depends upon the employment contract you have with your employees. You need to pay your employees Statutory Sick Pay in accord with the rules, but you do not have to pay them more than their Statutory Sick Pay entitlement, unless their employment contract says otherwise. Whether you pay occupational sick pay or Statutory Sick Pay is a cultural and commercial decision for your organisation.

Employees who belong to a Union are sometimes entitled to more than the statutory requirements if their Union has negotiated for an enhanced entitlement for sick pay.

A period of incapacity for work needs to be four days or more each time the person is off sick for them to qualify for Statutory Sick Pay. The first day of illness can be any day, including weekends and holidays; the first day doesn’t need to be a normal work day. Of course, people are only entitled to be paid SSP for the days they would have been working.

But here is the final twist. An employee is not entitled to SSP for the first three (normal working) days that they are off sick in any (linked by the 8 week threshold) period of incapacity for work. These three days are called waiting days.

You can ask your employee to provide a Doctor’s ‘fit note’ (sick note) after 7 days. And if they do not then they are not entitled to any more SSP.

If you’ve got any thoughts on this subject, please share them with us in the comments area below.

And if you’d like to read the legislation for yourself, you can find it here in the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.