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Statutory sick pay explained

  • How much statutory sick pay (SSP) you'll receive
  • Your statutory sick pay rights
  • The tax you'll have to pay on SSP
  • Protect your income against long-term sickness

If you're sick and unable to go to work, your employer will usually give you sick pay. We explain your sick leave rights and how much you're likely to receive in statutory sick pay.

How much statutory sick pay (SSP) will I get?

While you're on sick leave, the standard weekly rate for SSP is £85.85 a week. Sick pay is usually paid on your normal monthly or weekly payday.

As sick pay is likely to be far lower than your usual salary, you may want to consider an income protection insurance policy to cover your salary if you're unable to work due to illness or accident. 

Go further: Income protection - our guide explains all the benefits of investing in this product

Do I qualify for statutory sick pay?

If you're an employee, you're usually entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) in the following circumstances:

  • You're sick for at least four days in a row. This includes weekends and days that you do not normally work.
  • Your average weekly earnings are at least £107 a week. The average earnings figure is calculated over the eight weeks before you became ill.

SSP is not means tested, so your savings and other income won't be taken into account when calculating the sick pay you'll receive.

Statutory sick pay isn't usually paid for the first three days you're off, unless you've received SSP in the last eight weeks and are now eligible for it again.

Many employers pay out more than the statutory minimum. You'll find details of your company sick pay entitlement in your written statement of employment, which you should receive within two months of starting work. Agency workers qualify for SSP. You're not eligible for SSP if you're in receipt of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or additional paternity pay.

Do I have to pay tax on sick pay?

Usually yes. Statutory sick pay is treated as earned income, so you'll have to pay both income tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions on it in the same way you would on your salary. 

As statutory sick pay will probably be lower than your usual salary, though, you may find that your income is covered by the annual tax-free allowance (£9,205 in 2013/14, £10,000 in 2014/15) so in practice you won't have as much, if any, tax to pay.

Go further: Tax-free income and allowances - learn more about the personal allowance

How long does SSP pay out for? 

Statutory sick pay can be paid for up to 28 weeks. It's paid by your employer, but if your employer goes bust, HMRC will pay your SSP instead.

If your SSP has ended, or you don't qualify for it, your employer must fill in and give you form SSP1. This form explains why SSP has not been paid or why it is ending, as well as the last date of payment. Form SSP1 is used to support a claim for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), the longer-term benefit for those unable to work.

When do I have to tell my employer I'm sick?

For the first seven days of sickness, you will usually be asked by your employer to fill in a 'self-certificate'. You shouldn't be asked to provide medical evidence for these seven days.

If you're ill for more than a week, your employer can ask you to provide medical evidence from your doctor. If, for example, a doctor's 'fit note', which replaced the 'sick note' in April 2010, says you're not fit for work, this will usually be accepted as evidence that you are sick.

If your employer refuses to pay you SSP, ask them to explain why. If you can't reach agreement, you can call HMRC's employee enquiry line on 0845 302 1479 for further advice.

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