Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), Sickness And Fit Notes

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Who can receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)? The fact is, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is actually given to employees or workers who are paying Class 1 National Insurance Contributions but cannot work because they suffer from some illness.

However, self-employed individuals who are paying Class 2 and 4 National Insurance Contributions are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, nevertheless, they can still claim Employment and Support Allowance. If you need more information on this change, then you can visit the gov.uk.

The budget for March 11, 2020, provides all the details on these temporary modifications to SSP and fit notes most especially during this time of coronavirus pandemic. Here, we will provide all the details for you.

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What Are The Qualifying Conditions?

From April 2020, SSP uses a standard rate of £95.85 per week. You can be qualified to receive SSP from your employer if you can satisfy the following conditions:

  • The employer or worker should be sick for at least four days straight, bank holidays and weekends are included. This is also known as the “Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW).” There should be a Qualifying Day (QD) in one of these days. A Qualifying Day (QD) can be classified as such in the event that the worker regularly works and the employer should also have at least one QD in each week.
  • It is also a must that the employer or worker should be able to earn an average of at least £118 per week prior to any tax and National Insurance deductions. From April 5, 2020, this will be increased to £120 per week. This is computed based on the worker’s pay for the last eight weeks prior to the sickness. The ending week should be the last payday before the sickness started. The average weekly earnings will include everything such as your regular salary, sick pay, overtime pay, holiday pay, and maternity leave. In case you do not have eight weeks earnings, then your employer must compute the average of your actual earnings for this particular period.
  • Bear in mind that you will be ineligible for SSP if you have received sickness allowances such as invalidity pension, ESA, and others during the last 12 weeks.
  • Regardless if you have worked for a short or long period of time for your employer, you can still qualify for SSP since it has no minimum period required.
  • Any worker or employee can receive SSP regardless of their age since it does not have any age limits.
  • When you feel sick, you must inform your employer immediately and within seven days from the first day that you got sick. Except if your employer implements his own time limit. Additionally, you will be required to provide medical proof. Your employer can choose to withhold your SSP payment for a certain period of time due to the delay of informing them about your sickness, most especially if there is no good reason for the delay.

Ultimately, SSP will not pay for the first three days that you got sick, also known as “Waiting Days”. But after these, you will be paid for your SSP for the days that you have worked normally. If you were present at work and did some tasks even for just a minute, then this day won’t be considered by SSP as a day of incapacity.

If you work on shifts, for instance, your shift starts from Friday 6 PM and ends on Saturday 2 AM, then suddenly you got sick later on Saturday. It is fine to consider this as a day of incapacity, regardless if you have worked a portion of your shift.

It is possible to link Periods of Incapacity for Work(PIW) and interpret them as one PIW in case there is a gap of eight weeks (56 days) or less. SSP is paid in 28 weeks on the maximum, and when the time comes that it ends or if you cannot claim it anymore, then you could visit your local Job Centre and claim Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance. Your employer must complete an SSP1 form and give this to you so that you can send this to your local Job Centre.

If you can only provide a non-UK medical certificate to your employer during the time of your sickness because you were abroad, then HMRC can translate the certificate into English in case your employer contradicts to your SSP entitlement. On the contrary, employers can choose to have your medical certificate translated.

If your employer failed to pay your SSP or if you think that you are not paid with the right amount, then you can always contact your local HMRC office for assistance. You also have the option to file a claim to the Employment Tribunal due to the illegal deduction of wages.

Momentary Changes to SSP And Fit Notes During The Coronavirus Pandemic 2020

Eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will momentarily permit SSP payment to be released on the first day of sickness instead of the fourth day of their absence. This is intended for those individuals who have COVID-19 or have isolated themselves based on government guidelines.

The government has extended SSP so it can cover those people who were not able to report to work since they were told to self-isolate themselves as well as for those individuals who are taking care of those people within the same household who shows COVID-19 symptoms and have been advised to self-isolate. Typically, people who are required to self-quarantine themselves because they just came back from a country that is not included on the government’s list for safe travel are not qualified for SSP, except if they are sick.

Medical Evidence for SSP

For employers, the government has provided them with some guidance and advising them not to ask for a GP fit note for those absences which are related to COVID-19. However, there is a temporary alternative that can be used instead of a fit note. This is appropriate throughout the period of the COVID-19 outbreak and can be availed through the NHS111. This is intended to be used as a proof for absence from work.

This notification can help in satisfying the need of the employers who are looking for evidence while removing the pressure away from General Practices.

Support For Those Ineligible For SSP

The government acknowledges that employees who are below the Lower Earnings Limit, as well as self-employed individuals, are not qualified for SSP. The government thinks that the best financial scheme that can support these people is the welfare system and, particularly, a new style Employment and Support Allowance as well as Universal Credit.

The Budget offers further support by making sure that the benefits can be received quickly and easily.

A new style Employment and Support Allowance is payable on the first day of sickness instead of the eighth day for those people who are greatly affected by COVID-19  or those who are in self-isolation based on the government’s advice.

People who are directly affected by COVID-19 or are self-isolating are given the chance to claim Universal Credit and obtain advance payments without the need to attend a jobcentre.

The requirements needed for the minimum income floor in Universal Credit will be momentarily suspended throughout the duration of the outbreak for those people who are directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating based on government advice. This is to ensure that self-employed people will be paid for their losses in income.

Support For Businesses – Statutory Sick Pay

The government will provide support to employers as well as small and medium-sized companies to help them cope with the additional costs of funding COVID-19 related SSP by reimbursing eligible SSP payments.

In order to qualify for this scheme, there are certain eligibility criteria that must be followed:

The refund that will be provided is only restricted to two weeks per employee.

Employers can only be eligible if they only have less than 250 employees. The basis for determining the size of the employer will be the number of their employees or workers as of February 28, 2020.

Based on the new eligibility criteria, employers can reclaim expenses for any employee who has claimed SSP provided that they are a result of COVID-19. For further details, just visit gov.uk.

Employers can retain records of their employees’ absences, however, they should not oblige their staff to provide a GP fit note.

The eligibility for this scheme will start from the day that the SSP was extended to self-isolators.

If you would like more information about claiming SSP refunds, then you can visit gov.uk.

Deductions

Employers are legally allowed to make deductions from SSP, for instance, due to salary overpayments. However, this is not advisable since this could breach the trust and confidence between the employer and employee.

Most employers who are generous enough will offer payments to their employees if they won’t be able to work because of some sickness. This will be based on your employer’s occupational sick pay systems, take note that its “reporting your sickness” requirements are a bit different.

Employers are not allowed to reclaim SSP costs from their employees anymore.

RIDDOR

If you were unable to work because you are sick, then you should inform your employer immediately. In case the reason for your sickness is an accident at your workplace then your employer must follow the requirements for accident reporting based on the RIDDOR regulations.

Holiday Entitlement During Sick Leave and Sick Leave During Holidays

For more information about your pay rights during your notice period, you can always visit gov.uk. HMRC also offers a guide for employers about paying SSP.

Fit notes

If you’ve just returned back from sickness within seven days, then you will be compelled to fill out a self-certificate form where you will explain the reason for your sickness absence.

In case you were sick for seven days or more, then you will be required to obtain a doctor’s certificate which provides the reason why you failed to go to work. Your employer is not allowed to delay SSP if you were late in sending in a fit note, nevertheless, they have the right to delay SSP if you were late in informing them that you’re sick.

These certificates are also referred to as fit notes.

The goal of the new fit note is to inspire the progressive reintroduction of employees to work after they have recovered from their illness. The government believes that this can greatly help both employees and employers.

A fit note will only have two choices. GP’s will show those sick people:

  • Are entirely unfit for work.
  • With GP’s advice, “may be fit for work.”

They won’t have a choice to indicate that you are fit for work.

Important Information About Sick Notes:

  • GP’s can only release the new fit note for a maximum period of three months during the first six months of sickness.
  • You are not required to provide your employer with the new statement until after the seventh calendar day of sickness.
  • The new system will not affect the functions of SSP or the duties of the employers under the Disability Discrimination Act.
  • Med 3, also known as the old white sick note or Med 5, also known as the pink sick note is now replaced with a new form called Statement of Fitness for Work. Med 10 or the yellow form which is used when a person has been a hospital in-patient will stay the same and will continue to be issued.
  • GP’s are requested to use “may be fit for work” if they believe that the employee can still return to work, even if not fully well provided that their employers are very supportive.
  • GP’s will then identify whether the employee can take advantage of modified hours or duties, a phased return to work or workplace adjustments. However, it is not required that they should go into details when it comes to the activities that the employee can perform.
  • The fit note will indicate whether you must see your GP again after the duration of the fit note before you go back to normal or supported work. If your GP does not want to see you again, then it is anticipated that you will go back to work when the Statement period ends. On the other hand, if your GP wants to see you prior to this date, then during this consultation, they believe you can go back to your regular work without any support, also known as functional limitations then there is no need of releasing a new statement.
  • If there are some changes to the events during the duration period of the fit note and employees believe that they are ready to go back even without any support, then they have to go back to their GP to get an amended fit note.

More Information on What The Employer’s Guidance Notes on Fit Notes Say:

It is important that employers must be able to explain the comments for GP’s “may be fit for some work” to their employees in order to know whether the GP’s recommendations can be accommodated.

In the event that these matters will not be resolved with the employees, then employers can consider taking some advice from an Occupational Health (OH) professional and/or ask GP to explain the comments.

In case the employer can’t provide the essential support or cannot concur with the employee when it comes to the type of support offered by the GP, then the government suggested that the GP’s comments are advisory only and it does not bind with the employer. If there is no agreement and the employee is unable to go back to work, then the fit note will be considered as a “not fit for work” note, until such time that the circumstance changes.

ESA and Universal Credit Support For The Self-employed

Generally, self-employed individuals are not covered by Statutory Sick Pay. Hence, you might want to consider the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as an alternative. This is a welfare program that provides support to those whose ability to work has been greatly affected by disability or sickness.

Upon applying for ESA, it is required that you should meet certain conditions so as to confirm that your capacity to work has been compromised by your sickness or disability. For those employees who can qualify, they will be eligible for £73.10 per week, or £57.90 for below-25s.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UK budget made an announcement in March 2020 that those who wants to claim ESA can do so starting from the first day of their sickness instead of the eighth day which is the standard.

Although, it is also possible that you could be eligible for Universal Credit, however, you can only make a claim if you fall below the minimum income floor (MIF).

As additional support to the Coronavirus, the Chancellor offers easier and quicker access to Universal Credit most especially for the self-employed as well as for those who are involved in the gig economy, and new style ESA. Meanwhile, the government will be relaxing when it comes to the requirements of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit, most especially for those who were directly affected or were in self-isolation based on the advice of the government throughout the duration of the outbreak.

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