Statutory sick pay in the UK

March 18, 2020
Statutory sick pay in the UK

Some people say that UK employees are lucky to live in a country where statutory sick pay is a thing. But other people believe that £94.25 a week isn’t good enough. This article looks at some of the ins and outs of statutory sick pay in the UK, and how this compares to other places in the world.

Statutory sick pay in the UK

In the UK, the government makes sure employees get statutory sick pay (SSP). This means that if they have to miss work due to illness, their income won’t stop completely

At the time of writing this article, SSP amounts to £94.25 per week. However, this money comes with a few conditions.

For example, most employees will only qualify for SSP if they: 

  1. Are classed as an employee – read more information on types of employment here
  2. Earn at least £118 a week
  3. Have been off sick for four or more days in a row

Employees may also be required to tell their employer about their sickness before a set deadline, if they want to qualify. This deadline should be set out in the employment contract. If it isn’t, this deadline defaults to seven days.

But even if employees meet these conditions, there are many who say that £94.25 a week is simply not enough – especially when some other countries seem to offer so much more.

Some countries offer up to 100% sick pay

The most fierce critics of statutory sick pay in the UK will often point to countries like Belgium, which offer 100% sick pay for the first 7 days to blue collar workers.

Or maybe they’ll point to Luxembourg.

Luxembourg is an interesting country when it comes to sick pay. Because in Luxembourg, if you’re off sick, you receive all your salary and benefits for 77 days. That makes a big difference to the financial stability of employees who need to take time off sick

Of course, there’s usually a catch when something seems too good to be true. And maybe for employees in Luxembourg, the catch is that you are not allowed to leave your house while you’re on sick leave. And they can check in on you, too.

At any time between 8 o’clock in the morning, to 9 o’clock at night, the CNS (one of Luxembourg’s health authorities) can inspect your home to make sure you’re there. And it’s not just spot checks, either – your employer can request them to pay a visit.

Other countries offer no sick pay at all

On the other end of the spectrum, there are countries with no statutory sick pay laws at all. Employee Benefits reports that 13% of countries do not offer paid sick leave.

Let’s take the United States of America as an example. In the USA, there is no national requirement for companies to offer paid sick leave. You’re simply at the mercy of your employer, and whatever you can negotiate in your employment contract. 

Of course, it’s a bit misleading to say that there are no sick pay laws at all in the USA. There is no national requirement, but some States have introduced their own laws to govern sick pay. To date, 10 states have introduced statutory sick pay legislation.

Statutory sick pay is only a legal minimum

I think it’s worth mentioning that there is a difference between paid sick leave, and statutory sick pay. Statutory sick pay is simply the minimum an employee must receive by law. But companies can still offer better sick pay as a ‘perk’.

But if you’re an employer, then why would you want to offer more than the statutory minimum, when you can get away with paying less?

Companies with strong sick pay benefits tend to retain their employees for longer. What’s more, Glassdoor reckons more than a third of jobseekers consider ‘perks’ as the most important part of the job offer. 

And here’s another thing. If £94.25 a week isn’t enough to keep your employees financially stable, then you’re going to have a big problem on your hands if they’re off sick for a while. After all, financial wellbeing is just as important as physical health and mental wellbeing.

Please note

This article was published during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UK government temporarily changed certain rules surrounding statutory sick pay, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, I wrote this article based on standard SSP legislation, and not in response to the pandemic. Make sure you check on the government’s website for their latest advice regarding COVID-19, and how this might affect normal operating practices.

Stay ahead with HR

Get free HR insights, expert tips and exclusive interviews, and start making more impact at work

Please enter a valid email address

See People HR in action

View our short video demo

Get started absolutely free

No credit card required

Talk with an expert to learn how People HR could help your organisation