No imminent reforms to Statutory Sick Pay
21 July 2021
The government has published a consultation response, which confirms that no imminent changes will be made to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) system.
The initial consultation included a raft of questions relating to SSP, with the aim of making the system simpler and more flexible.
The outbreak of coronavirus shone a light on SSP, but the government maintains that this was not the correct time to make amendments to the rate of SSP or the eligibility criteria. Instead, changes to SSP for those who were self-isolating or affected by coronavirus were made, and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) was introduced.
At present, SSP is not compatible with phased returns, as payment of SSP stops completely as soon as an employee returns to work, even if this is on reduced hours. This can often act as a barrier to employers offering phased returns to employees, and to employees accepting those arrangements. Consultation responses indicated that there needed to be clearer guidance on phased returns.
To qualify for SSP, an employee has to earn at least the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL), which, at the time of writing sits at £120 per week. This also applies to individuals with multiple jobs, in each of which they are paid below the LEL. This earnings threshold was not removed during the pandemic as government felt that this would not have been an appropriate time to increase employer spend. However, consultation responses showed that the majority (75%) felt that SSP should be extended so that individuals earning below the LEL would be entitled to SSP. The rationale behind this was that the extension of SSP would encourage employers to reduce sickness absence across all of their employee base.
The Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme was implemented to support small and medium businesses with the cost of coronavirus-related absences. Government wanted to explore views on a permanent rebate system, but responses were mixed. Those who were in support of the rebate were interested in the ease of access over the associated conditions. Others, who were concerned, felt that this sort of conditionality could mean that employers brought employees back to work before they were ready, as linking a rebate to a code of practice could result in a ‘tick box’ exercise for employers.
72% of survey respondents indicated that there needs to be better enforcement of SSP. The creation of the single enforcement body, which will bring together the existing enforcement bodies will include enforcement of SSP within its remit. Respondents felt that employers who make genuine mistakes should not be penalised, but the focus should be on deliberate non-compliance.
In describing its next steps in relation to SSP, the consultation response stated:
“Government maintains that SSP provides an important link between the employee and employer but that now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system.”
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