Reformed SSP system to support more flexible working

11 January 2018

The government has published a paper on its plans to see one million more disabled people in work over the next ten years. The paper includes the government’s vision to see a reformed Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) system which supports more flexible working.


In the Green Paper ‘Improving Lives: the Work, Health and Disability', published in October 2016, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Health set out the case for change and their vision:

“A society where everyone is ambitious for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, and where people understand and act positively upon the important relationship between health, work and disability.”

The case for change remains, and the government is committed to realising the vision and to see one million more disabled people in work over the next ten years.

A further paper has now been published which builds on the Improving Lives Green Paper and is intended to be the start of a ten-year programme of reform. It sets out actions focused on:

  • Supporting people getting into and staying in work

  • Improving and joining up across the three key settings:

    • The welfare system

    • The workplace

    • The healthcare system

  • Support for those who need it - whatever their health conditions

  • Changing culture and attitudes

  • Technology

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The government’s vision is to see a reformed SSP system which supports more flexible working – for example, to help support phased returns to work including spacing out working days during a return to work, managing a long-term health condition, or recovering from illness. However, as set out in the green paper, SSP is currently inflexible and creates a financial disincentive for employees to consider some forms of phased returns to work.

Consultation responses to the Green Paper gave broad support for the principle of SSP reform to support fully flexible, phased returns to work. This was also supported by both Matthew Taylor good work review and the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health.

The government is taking forward further policy development and will bring forward a consultation on these changes, as well as any other SSP changes it identifies in its wider work, before introducing this reform. Existing guidance on SSP eligibility will be improved and better publicised to ensure that employers and employees each understand their rights and responsibilities.

Under consideration are also Matthew Taylor’s further recommendations about SSP eligibility and the way entitlement is accrued, and about sickness absence management. Taylor’s recommendations will be fully considered as part of the wider work on SSP, including assessing how the recommendations will impact on employers and employees. Careful consideration is to be given to Taylor’s view that entitlement to SSP is a basic employment right that is a foundation to establishing fair, decent and quality work.

CIPP comment

Reformation to the process of ‘statutory’ sick pay calculations is not a new subject but never before have so many different sources highlighted its importance – and we all agree that flexibility to an otherwise rigid process would be welcome in supporting phased return to work. But not forgetting that a similar flexibility is not often granted when it comes to employer non-compliance, the Policy team is encouraged and grateful for the generous timescale for delivery. There is also to be an open consultation on proposals that we hope will draw together a logical and workable solution for a Statutory Sick Pay scheme that will serve the workers of the UK and Northern Ireland and their employers, in equal measure.

We look forward to joining other stakeholders to work together with the DWP, the Department of Health and with HMRC, whose importance in ensuring compliance was highlighted by Matthew Taylor in his support of this reform.

The second paper ‘Improving Lives - The Future of Work, Health and Disability’ was presented to Parliament in November 2017 and is available on GOV.UK.