Employers are required by law to pay an amount of sick pay to any employee who is absent due to sickness. This is known as Statutory Sick Pay or SSP. Since 1st October 2006 all employees (irrespective of age) were entitled to SSP provided they satisfy the other requirements, including the need for their earnings to exceed the lower earnings limit in place at the relevant time.
There is a fixed amount of SSP payable in any week, as set down by the Government. This amount is reviewed from time to time, normally on an annual basis. However, there is a maximum number of weeks over which this payment can be made by employers.
There are also specific SSP rules that state that payments will not commence until the fourth day of sickness although it is possible to link one period of sickness with another and thus avoid the need to have a number of waiting days prior to the payment being made.
There is no qualifying period of service before SSP is payable, However, the employee must have actually commenced working for the organisation. The SSP scheme is only open to employees and people holding elective offices for example, directors of companies.
Employers are required to keep certain statutory records in connection with the payment of SSP. This, therefore, means that there is a need to demonstrate that all SSP payments were made in circumstances of genuine sickness. Employees who consider that SSP is being unreasonably withheld may complain to the government department responsible for administering sickness benefits.
Where SSP is paid, there is no obligation upon employers to pay any additional company sick pay. However, where there is an amount of contractual sick pay agreed between employer and the employee, SSP will form part of the total sickness payment of the employee's normal wage or salary for the period of sickness. It is clearly inappropriate and unnecessary to pay SSP in addition to a normal wage or salary for a period of sickness.