Understanding statutory sick pay


When to start and stop statutory sick pay

COVID-19: Temporary change to SSP

In Northern Ireland, if the employee cannot work while self-isolating because of coronavirus they could get SSP for every day they are in isolation, from day one. They must self-isolate for at least four days to be eligible. This provision applies in Northern Ireland until 24 September 2022.

Within limits, you can set up your own rules about how your employees inform you when they are sick.

You should only consider paying statutory sick pay (SSP) once an employee has been sick for at least four calendar days in a row. This period of sickness is known as a period of incapacity for work (PIW) and may include weekends and bank holidays.

Linking periods

If a PIW starts within eight weeks of the end of a previous PIW, the periods are linked and count as one period of sickness.

Waiting days

The first three qualifying days in a PIW are called waiting days (WDs). SSP is not payable for WDs. Where PIWs are linked, and all three WDs have been served in the first PIW, there will be no WDs in any later linked spells of sickness.

If all three WDs have not been served in the first PIW, any remaining WDs must be served at the beginning of the next linked PIW.

Qualifying days

These are the employee’s contractual or normal working days, unless other days have been agreed with the workforce. SSP is paid for each qualifying day after the waiting days.

Payment of SSP during a phased return to work

If the employee has previously been off sick and you have agreed a phased return to work, you must consider payment of the employee’s normal wages for days worked and SSP for days not worked in the normal working week.

Stopping payment of SSP

SSP usually stops once an employee returns to work for their regular number of days and/or hours. You should calculate if any SSP is still owing to them for previous days of sickness – pay any outstanding money on their next normal pay day.

Stop paying SSP if your employee:

  • is still off sick after SSP has been paid for 28 weeks
  • has had linked periods of sickness that have spanned a period of three years – even if you haven’t paid a total 28 weeks’ worth of SSP

You also stop paying SSP to an employee if she starts receiving statutory maternity pay (SMP) – or maternity allowance (MA) if she doesn’t qualify for SMP. The employee would start receiving SMP or MA if she either:

  • Has chosen to start receiving SMP or MA on a particular date which also happens to be when she would be due SSP.
  • Is off sick for a pregnancy-related illness within four weeks of the start of her expected week of childbirth or the date she has chosen for her SMP to begin, whichever is earlier. In these circumstances, she stops working and starts to receive SMP or MA automatically.

If an employee is not entitled to SMP or MA, and is not already receiving SSP, she will be disqualified from receiving SSP for a period of 18 weeks.

Issuing the SSP1 form

If you stop paying an employee SSP and they are still off sick, you should advise them to make a claim for employment and support allowance (ESA) from their local Jobs & Benefits office. You must complete form SSP1 and send it to the employee immediately. Form SSP1 is used to support a claim for ESA.

If you know in advance that an employee will be off sick for more than 28 weeks, you should send the SSP1 form to them up to six weeks before the end of this 28-week period so that they can claim ESA without delay.


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