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Statutory sick pay: what is it and how much will you get?

If you fall ill and need to take time off work, you could be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP).

This statutory right compensates for some of the wages you may have lost while unable to work.

But are you entitled to SSP, and how do you claim it? Here’s what you need to know.

Statutory sick pay: what is it and how much will you get? 

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What is statutory sick pay? 

Statutory sick pay is designed to give working people an uplift if they are sick and unable to work as normal. Whether you’re in full-time or part-time work or are on a fixed-term contract, you’ll likely be eligible for statutory sick pay. Your employer may also have their own sick pay scheme, in which case you may be better off with your employer’s scheme. If not, you will need to fall back on SSP. 

While most people are eligible for some kind of sick pay scheme, the number of people taking sick pay in the UK is one of the lowest in Europe. In 2021, British workers took on average just under six days of sick leave, the seventh lowest figure in Europe.  

In the years before the pandemic, however, this number was even lower, with the sickness absence rate in 2019 just under a historic low of only two days. So while SSP is there to help people, British workers take fewer than average sick days compared to their European counterparts.   

How does statutory sick pay work & how much is it? 

Depending on your eligibility for SSP, you’ll receive sick pay for each day that you’re off work due to illness. If eligible, you’ll receive £99.35 per week for up to 28 weeks. You could receive more if you have a workplace scheme, but you can receive no less than this statutory amount.  

SSP is paid to you at the same time as your normal income, so you’ll receive it when you receive your salary or wages. This could be monthly, weekly or daily depending on the specifics of your employment.  

Who qualifies for statutory sick pay? 

Statutory sick pay offers a minimum source of income if you aren’t part of an occupational sick pay scheme. To be eligible, you need to meet some minimum requirements, including: 

  • you need to have fully started work with your employer 

  • you need to have been sick for four or more days (including non-working days) 

  • you need to earn on average £123 a week before tax 

  • you are not in an excluded group, such as being self-employed, have exceeded 28 weeks of SSP, or are receiving another form of statutory pay. A full list of excluded criteria can be found on Citizens Advice 

Determining your eligibility for sick pay can be more tricky if you’re an agency worker, as your working status can vary depending on your contract. For example, you may be eligible for occupational sick pay from the moment you begin working on a new contract, or you may need to wait 12 weeks to be enrolled on a workplace sick pay scheme. In this case, you would likely need to use statutory sick pay as your backup.  

If you’re on a zero hours contract, you may be given sick pay by your employer, however you will likely need to ask for it. If you aren’t satisfied with your employer’s reason for not giving you sick pay, you can appeal by contacting the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team. 

How do you claim sick pay? 

To claim sick pay you will need to provide evidence that you are sick and unable to work. The exact evidence you need to provide will vary from one employer to the next, so be sure to check with your employer about what you will need. 

You will typically need to tell your employer when you become ill within a set number of days, usually seven. You may need to do this by filling in a form or simply by ringing in. To continue receiving sick pay after around seven days, you may need a doctor’s note or certificate showing that you are ill.   

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Does statutory sick pay cover Covid? 

The UK government has ended a statutory sick pay rebate scheme for employers as of March 2022. This scheme encouraged employers to provide statutory sick pay for employees isolating with Covid symptoms. This means you can no longer use statutory sick pay to support yourself if you’re self-isolating, although your employer’s scheme may still support you. You may still be eligible for SSP if you are ill with Covid and can’t work. If you need to provide evidence of your Covid status to an employer, you can use the NHS Covid Isolation Note service.  

How long does statutory sick pay last? 

Statutory sick pay can only be paid for up to 28 weeks, although if you’re not able to work your employer could choose to extend your sick leave. If you’re still not able to work after 28 weeks, you may need to explore alternatives, such as Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) which can help you receive some income if you’re not able to work.  

Do you get taxed on statutory sick pay? 

SSP is paid to you at the same time as your normal income which could be weekly or monthly. This means that tax and national insurance contributions will be taken if necessary.  

What if you don’t qualify for statutory sick pay? 

Whether you’re self-employed or simply don’t qualify for SSP, not having any additional income support in case you fall ill can be a scary situation to be in. If you are working and still don’t qualify for statutory sick pay, then you may need to look for different ways to supplement your income in case of illness, such as Universal Credit or ESA. 

As an employer-paid benefit, self-employed workers can’t receive any kind of statutory sick pay. While they may receive an occupational sick pay scheme, it’s a good idea for self-employed workers to explore alternatives. You may qualify for ESA if you have paid enough national insurance. Alternatively, you could look into sickness or critical injury insurance which can help reduce the impact of being unable to work and earn money in case of injury. 

While many people will be covered by statutory sick pay, if you aren’t, you may need to explore what your options are now before you fall ill. Life insurance and protection can help keep you afloat in case you’re not able to work and aren’t eligible for a sick pay scheme. Find a life insurance policy that works for you with Unbiased.  

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.