A report by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) found the current Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) scheme available to UK employees to be manifestly inadequate and not keeping up with the requirements of EU law. The report showed statutory minimum levels of sick pay for workers in the UK is significantly lower than the national average wage, with those eligible receiving less than 40 per cent of the median income of the UK.
A study conducted by Vouchercloud in 2016 also revealed the average UK worker is likely to receive 9 per cent of their normal weekly salary across five days of absence, compared with a worker in Liechtenstein who can expect to receive 64 per cent of their weekly salary.
SSP has been in existence since April 1983 when it was introduced under the Social Security and Housing Benefits Act 1982. Employees are entitled to receive SSP if they are sick for a continuous period of 4 days (including non-working days) and are unable to attend work as a result. The maximum length of entitlement is 28 weeks, and the rate (which is subject annual reviews) is currently set at £89.35 per week, however this is set to rise to £92.05 per week from 6 April 2018.
Aside from annual reviews, SSP laws rarely change. The most significant change in recent times occurred in 2014 when the SSP recovery scheme was abolished. The removal of this meant that eligible employers were no longer able to reclaim from the government monies paid by way of SSP. Around the same time the Fit for Work health advisory service was introduced, designed to help employers manage employee wellbeing and reduce sickness at source. However, this too will be removed later on this year.
It is unlikely that the SSP system will be reformed to an employee’s advantage. Any potential increase in required SSP amounts would not likely be welcomed by smaller employers as it would mean higher payments to employees that are too sick to attend work. Despite this many larger employers choose to provide employees with a contractual sick pay package offering period of full or half pay, for example, during sickness absence. A report from EEF highlighted that only 13 per cent of employers interviewed did not offer higher occupational sick pay, citing this as an important way to retain employees and keep a healthy and happy workforce.
A recent Direct Line life insurance study revealed that only 4 per cent of participants were aware of how much SSP they were entitled to, with many believing they would receive their full salary should they be off work with ill health for a continuous period