Your rights to sick pay
How much and when can you claim
It might happen that you get ill or injured and need to be absent from work for prolonged periods. In that case, you might be eligible for sick pay, which entitles you to receive remuneration during your time off work.
There are two types of sick pay, the Statutory Sick Pay and the company sick pay. The Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), is the legal minimum amount that must be paid to eligible employees in accordance with the UK law. The Government website reports the SSP is paid in the same way as your normal wages and represents an amount of £88.45 a week, for up to 28 weeks, which comes into force after three days of sickness. In addition, the statutory specifies that you may get SSP from each employer if you have more than one job, and Tax and National Insurance will be automatically deducted. Remember that you only qualify for SSP if you are classed as an employee and have worked for your employer for a minimum of 8 weeks, have been ill for at least four days in a row, earn at least £112 before tax per week and you must inform your employer you are sick before their deadline or within seven days.
If you do not qualify for SSP, you might be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). ESA provides financial support if you are unable to work or personalised help whereby you can work if you are able to. Moreover, you can apply for ESA if you are employed, self-employed or unemployed and you must submit a Work Capability Assessment to determine to what extent your illness or disability affects your ability to work.
Your employer, however, may offer a sick pay scheme that is more generous than the legal minimum. Details of your company sick pay entitlement should be included in your contract. A typical sick pay scheme usually starts after a minimum period of service, for example, a three months probationary period. You would then receive your normal pay during any period that you are off work due to illness, up to a specified number of weeks. After this, you are likely to receive half-pay for a further period before any sick leave you take becomes unpaid.
Your employer may decide in advance the conditions that would give you access to the company sick pay. They might require a doctor’s fit note to certify your illness, usually after a week, and might establish a period of notice to inform them of your illness. In some cases, since some sick pay schemes say that payments are at the employer discretion, they might decide not to grant you a sick pay if they think your absence is not justified. In this case, remember you might be eligible for SSP or ESA or you can consult your local Citizens Advice Bureau to find out about your rights. If you think your employer is unjustly refusing to pay you, this is a breach of contract and you should consider raising a grievance against them or make a claim for unlawful deduction of wages to an employment tribunal.
If you become pregnant and unable to work, or you or your partner intend to get time off work after giving birth you need to make a separate claim as the SSP or the company sick pay do not cover time off related to maternity or paternity. In this case, there are different kinds of financial supports, such as the Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay, which grants time off work up to 52 weeks and 90% of your average weekly earnings for up to 39 weeks, or the Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay, which allows one or two weeks paid leave. You might also be eligible for paid time off for antenatal care or Shared Parental Leave and Pay and extra help from the government.
Ultimately, you should also be aware that mental conditions such as stress, anxiety or depression are proper illnesses and as such entitle you to sick pay if you require time off work. There is still a stigma around mental illnesses, and it is important that your employer understands that your mental condition does affect considerably your capacity to work. Do not be afraid to explain this to your employer and if necessary, show them a doctor’s or psychologist’s/psychiatrist’s note.
To sum up, it is important that you are aware of your rights to sick pay to get as much support as possible but also your duties in order to avoid inconveniences, such as missing a deadline to make a claim or failing to inform your employer in time. If you are in doubt, do not be afraid to talk to your employer and consult the competent offices.
By Sara Pacarioni