Working as a sole trader is pretty straightforward – you work, you get paid. If you’re ill and can’t work, nobody covers your costs. However, if you take on an employee, under UK law they will be entitled to statutory sick pay if they are unable to work because of ill health.

The weekly rate for statutory sick pay (SSP) is £88.45 for up to 28 weeks of sickness. If an employee is sick for longer than 28 weeks, they need to claim employment support allowance.

Check our guide to insurance for traders, or read on to find out more about who is eligible for statutory sick pay and how you should pay it.

Who is eligible for statutory sick pay?

Employees, including those who are temporary, part-time or agency workers, are entitled to statutory sick pay to cover periods of absence as a result of illness or otherwise being unfit for work, as long as he or she:

  • has an employment contract

  • has worked for you under that contract

  • has been sick for four or more days in a row (including non-working days)

  • earns at least £112 a week

  • gives you the correct notice

  • gives you proof of their illness.

Employees are NOT entitled to statutory sick pay if:

  • they have already received SSP for 28 weeks

  • they are receiving maternity pay

  • they were on strike or in custody on the first day of illness

  • they were off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks before their baby is due

  • they received employment support allowance within 12 weeks of starting or returning to work for you.

When should you pay statutory sick pay?

SSP should be calculated and paid at the normal payment date – that could be the end of the week, or the month, depending on what system you use.

Statutory sick pay starts on the fourth ‘qualifying’ day of sickness. A qualifying day is a day your employee would usually work. In practice, this usually means there are three days before sickness pay starts in any period of incapacity for work. For example, if your employee normally works from Monday to Friday but they are ill from a Monday, then sick pay would be calculated as starting from Thursday – after three qualifying days.

If they fall ill on a Saturday, the Saturday and Sunday count towards the period of incapacity for work, but they are not qualifying days, so SSP would still not be paid until the Thursday. The government have created an online calculator to help you work out what your employees are entitled to.

Employees must notify you that they are sick. It’s good practice to include agreed sickness-notification time in your employment contracts – for example, by 10am on the first day of sickness. To qualify for statutory sick pay, an employee must notify you that they are unfit for work within your terms, or within seven days if you don’t have specific terms in their employment contract.

They must provide you with proof that they’re unfit for work. This will typically take the form of a ‘fit for work’ note from their GP.

What else do you need to know?

Employees continue to accrue annual leave while they are sick. Annual leave can be taken while employees are off sick.

Employees can qualify for sick pay from more than one job. They can be fit for one and unfit for another, for example if one role was office based and another involved heavy lifting.

If an employee doesn’t qualify for SSP, or they are sick for more than 28 weeks, then you must give them form SSP1, which will help the Jobcentre decide what benefit, if any, they are entitled to.

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