Whether it’s strep, sniffles or the stomach bug, we all get sick. As a business owner, you have to juggle both the wellbeing of your team and your business, and while you’re happy for an employee to take all the R&R and ibuprofen they need to get back on their feet, you’re also wondering what their continued absence means for you financially. This is where it is good to have a basic knowledge of UK sick pay law.

Pour yourself a steaming mug of Lemsip. Here’s what you need to know about paying your employees while they’re off sick: 


SSP is the minimum you must pay your employee while they’re off sick

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is a government scheme that allows eligible employees to receive £99.35 a week for up to 28 weeks while they’re off sick. In order to be eligible for SSP, your employee must: 

  • Have an employment contract
  • Have already done some work under that contract 
  • And earn an average of at least £123 per week 

Your employee won’t start earning SSP until they’ve been sick for at least four days, meaning those who are out for just a day or two because of a bad case of the sniffles won’t be eligible. However, these four days include non-working days. If, for example, your employee became ill on a Thursday and was unwell through the weekend, they’d be able to start claiming SSP by Monday. 

After seven days, you may ask your employee to submit a fit note or some other proof of their sickness. Under UK sick pay law, fit notes or sick notes must be issued by a professional like a GP, registered nurse or occupational therapist. While you’re not required to ask for proof, if you do your employee must supply it in order to continue receiving SSP. 


 Finally, there are some cases where your employee won’t qualify for SSP. For example, if they: 

  • Have already received 28 weeks of SSP 
  • Are already receiving SMP or Maternity Allowance 
  • Received benefits like Employment and Support Allowance within 12 weeks of starting or returning to work with you 


It’s your responsibility to claim back an employee’s SSP

Similarly to how the government can help you cover maternity pay, you can claim back an employee’s SSP. But remember: it’s up to you as the employer, not your employee, to note SSP on your payroll. HMRC will often then refund you through reductions in your NI and PAYE tax liabilities. If you’d like more support in handling your payroll or applying for these refunds, get in touch. 


You can implement your own company sick policy

SSP is the bare minimum you must legally pay your employees while they’re off sick. However, you may instead choose to implement your own Company Sick Pay scheme in order to offer more support to your team while they’re unwell. The three most important rules to remember for your Company Sick Pay scheme are: 

  1. You must pay them the equivalent of or more than they’d get from SSP. In other words, under UK sick pay law they cannot receive less than £99.35 a week
  2. Get it in writing. From employment contracts to handbooks, make sure your company sick policy (and all your company policies!) are clearly outlined both for you and your team.
  3. Keep it consistent. What rules apply to one employee must apply to them all, or else you could open yourself up to claims of discrimination 

Handling all of this on your own, on top of running your business and maybe squeezing in a coffee break here or there, can be overwhelming. Outsourcing your HR support can not only save you time but also help you navigate some of the minefields that come along with looking after your team. We recommend BespokeHR to many of our clients. 

As part of your Company Sick Pay, you may also want to consider ways you can help your team return to work or prevent them from becoming seriously unwell in the first place. 


Prevention is always better than a cure

As a business owner, there’s not much you can do to stop an employee from being laid up with norovirus for a week. 

But you can make a difference in your team’s mental wellbeing. 

With one in four people experiencing a mental health problem a year in England, this issue is impossible to ignore. We spend a huge portion of our lives at work. It’s our responsibility as business owners and (human beings!) to create a kind, caring and supportive workplace. 

There are several tax free ways you can keep your team healthy and happy, including funding yearly mental and physical health check-ins. Occupational Health providers are also a great resource of team members who are already struggling with their mental health. After an assessment, an OH professional can provide advice on how you can better support this particular employee, improve the wellbeing of your team as a whole and reduce overall sickness absences. 

Above all, it’s important to check-in with your team, ask them how they’re doing and create a workplace where people feel safe to talk and open up. If you need support in this, we’re here to help however we can.