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What are the requirements to pay sick pay during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Here are some frequently asked questions to navigate employees’ entitlement to sick pay.

What is the minimum amount that an employee is entitled to receive if they are off sick?

Employees may be eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are too ill to work. Employees are entitled to a maximum of 28 weeks of SSP per period of sickness. Employees cannot receive less than the statutory amount, which is currently £95.85 per week.

When can employees start receiving SSP?

SSP must be paid to an employee when they have been sick for at least four full days in a row (including non-working days, weekends and bank holidays). If a period of sickness lasts four days or more in a row, it is known as a Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW). If the gap between two PIWs is less than 8 weeks (56 days), then the PIWs should be linked and treated as one PIW.

Employees should only be paid sick pay for ‘qualifying days’, which are the days that the employee normally works (their contracted working days).

SSP is not payable for the first three days in a PIW, which are called ‘waiting days’. Weekends can count as waiting days, so waiting days are not always the first 3 days of the period of sickness.

Therefore, employers should start paying the employee SSP from the fourth qualifying day of a period of sickness. It follows that if the period of sickness is less than four consecutive days, there is no PIW and the employee would not be entitled to be paid SSP; the employee would have to take unpaid sick leave.

How is SSP paid to the employee?

SSP is paid by the employer in the same way as the normal wages, be it weekly or monthly. Tax and NICs will be deducted as usual.

When must the employer be told about the sickness?

The employee must usually tell their employer that they are unable to work before the deadline set out in the contract of employment, or within seven days if there is not a set deadline.

Can employers ask for proof of sickness?

Employers can only ask for proof of sickness, by way of a sick/fit note or letter from a doctor, if the employee has been off sick for more than 7 consecutive days (including non-working days).

What if the sickness is caused by the workplace?

The same sick pay rules apply. The employee is not entitled to any extra sick pay, unless the contract of employment states otherwise.

Is the employee entitled to receive more than SSP?

Employers are free to pay a higher rate of sick pay on top of the statutory minimum if they wish to do so. The rate and duration of sick pay should be set out in the contract of employment.

Can employees receive sick pay if they have to self-isolate and cannot work?

An employee must receive SSP from their first day of self-isolation if they are self-isolating because:

  • they or someone they live with has Covid-19 symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19
  • someone in their ‘support bubble’ has Covid-19 symptoms or has tested positive for Covid-19
  • they have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19
  • they have been advised by a doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery
  • they have been told to shield and they live or work in an area with restrictions in place including advice to shield

An employee cannot receive SSP if they are self-isolating after entering or returning to the UK and do not need to self-isolate for any other reason.

How many days must an employee self-isolate for to receive SSP?

The employee must self-isolate and be off work for at least four full days in a row (including non-working days) to be eligible for SSP. The employee must be paid from the first ‘qualifying’ day that they are off work, which is different to if the employee is off sick for another reason as set out above.

Does the employee need to provide their employer with proof that they are self-isolating because of Covid-19?

The employer should not ask for proof until the employee has been self-isolating for at least 7 days. If the employee has been off work for more than 7 days, they can get an ‘isolation note’ online from the NHS 111 website. If they are self-isolating because they have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have been in contact with someone with Covid-19, the notification is sufficient proof. If they are self-isolating because they have been advised by a doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery, the letter confirming the date of the procedure is sufficient proof.

How do you treat an employee who is on furlough and then becomes unwell?

If an employee becomes sick whilst on furlough, the employer can decide whether to continue to keep them on furlough or move them to SSP. If the employee remains on furlough then the employer can continue to claim the employee’s salary through the furlough scheme. If the employee is moved to SSP then the employer cannot claim the wages through the furlough scheme.

If you have any questions about sick pay or sickness policies, please contact Sejal Raja on sejal.raja@rlb-law.com or Ben Dos Santos on ben.dossantos@rlb-law.com.


Disclaimer

This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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