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Statutory sick pay explained

All you need to know about statutory sick pay. Find out whether you'll qualify should you fall ill, what your rights are and how much SSP you'd receive.

In this article
What is statutory sick pay (SSP)? How much statutory sick pay (SSP) will I get in 2019? Do I qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP)? Do I have to pay tax on statutory sick pay?
How long does SSP pay out for?  When do I have to tell my employer I'm sick? Can the self-employed claim statutory sick pay? Do part-time workers get statutory sick pay?

What is statutory sick pay (SSP)?

Statutory sick pay, or SSP, is the minimum you must legally be paid if you're off sick from work.

It is paid to employees of companies, who are off sick for at least four days in a row. 

How much statutory sick pay (SSP) will I get in 2019?

While you're on sick leave, the standard weekly rate for SSP is £94.25 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 because of illness or accident. 

Do I qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP)?

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 £116 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 receiving statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or additional paternity pay.

 

Do I have to pay tax on statutory 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 (which is £12,500 in the 2019/20 tax year) so, in practice, you won't have as much - if any - tax to pay.

Find out more in our guide to tax-free income and allowances.

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.

The benefits system in the UK is changing, and eventually, income-related ESA will be replaced by Universal Credit. Find out more in our guide to What is Universal Credit? .

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 it to explain why. If you can't reach an agreement, you can call HMRC's employee enquiry line on 0300 200 3500 for further advice.

Can the self-employed claim statutory sick pay?

Unfortunately, statutory sick pay is only payable to those employed by a company, and people who work for themselves aren't able to claim it. 

Instead, you could claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a state benefit which was introduced in 2008. It is payable to people who have an illness or disability who unable to work as a result. 

If you have to claim ESA when you're self-employed, you might face a significant reduction in income. As a result, you should strongly consider taking out insurance to protect your income should you get ill. Find out more about how income protection and critical illness insurance work.

There are three types of ESA - 'new style', income-related and contributory. 

You'll need to go through a work assessment, after which you'll be placed into one of two groups - a work-related activity group, for those who may be able to work in the future, and a support group, for those whose illness will stop them from working. 

The table below gives you an idea of how much you could get in the 2018-19 tax year, but you can find out more on gov.uk's guidance on ESA. 

Type of group Weekly ESA during assessment Weekly ESA after assessment
Work-related activity group Up to £57.90 if under 25, £73.10 if over 25 Up to £73.10
Support group Up to £57.90 if under 25, £73.10 if over 25 Up to £111.65

Do part-time workers get statutory sick pay?

Yes, if you work part-time, you're still entitled to SSP. Provided you meet the criteria of earning at least £116 a week, you should get the full amount of SSP, not a pro-rata amount based on your part-time work. 

This also applies to casual staff, agency workers, temps and people on a fixed-term contract. 

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