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Government urged to raise the level of statutory sick pay

Makbool Javaid, Partner - Simons Muirhead & Burton

The CIPD has published a report examining the SSP reforms that it believes are needed and outlines how public policy and employer practice should work together to support people’s health and employment outcomes. The vulnerability of many workers forced to rely on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during COVID-19, or not being able to access it at all, exposed the fault lines in the UK system. 

It calls on the government to extend protection to those on the lowest incomes and to expand eligibility for SSP by abolishing the lower earnings limit (LEL). It also recommends that the level of SSP is raised to be closer to the equivalent of someone earning the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage.

Further consultation should be carried out on a wider reform of SSP, including issues such as whether or not SSP should be linked to earnings level, amending SSP rules to allow for phased returns to work, permanent removal of the three qualifying days for payment of SSP, if/how SMEs can be better supported, in particular very small employers and whether or not there should be a new payment structure whereby financial responsibility is shared between the state and employers.

The government should expedite the introduction of a well-resourced single enforcement body (SEB) to carry out proactive inspections in high-risk sectors to boost employer compliance with SSP. This should include an increase in the number of inspectors to one per 10,000 workers. It should also investigate opportunities to improve income protection for the self-employed during ill health or injury.

Employers, if they don’t already have one, should consider the benefits of introducing an occupational sick pay scheme to provide income protection beyond the statutory minimum for employees who can’t work when sick. Employers should ensure the design of their scheme, including the qualifying criteria and duration of payments, supports the effective return to work and rehabilitation of individuals. Line managers should be trained and guided to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to effectively manage sickness absence and the return-to-work process.

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