Statutory sick pay, sickness and fit notes

Posted on Sep 16th, 2008 | Employment law

SSP is paid to employees or workers (who pay Class 1 National Insurance Contributions) who cannot work because of sickness.

Article updated for 2018.

Those who are self-employed (and pay Class 2 and 4 National Insurance Contributions) have no entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay, but may be able to claim Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance (which was introduced to replace Incapacity Benefit in January 2011). The Direct Gov page here gives more details of this change.

The standard rate of SSP is £92.05 per week from 9th April 2018. You are entitled to SSP from your employer if you meet the qualifying conditions, which are:

  • You must be sick for at least 4 days in a row (including weekends and bank holidays), which is called a ‘Period of Incapacity for Work’ (PIW). One of these days must be a Qualifying Day (QD). A qualifying day is a worker normally works, and your Employer must have at least one QD in each week.
  • You must earn before tax and national insurance deductions an average of £113 per week (increasing to £116 per week from 9th April 2018) – calculated over the 8 weeks ending with the last pay day before the sickness began. ‘Average’ weekly earning include normal wages, any holiday pay, any overtime, sick pay or maternity pay you are receiving. If you have not had 8 weeks earnings, your Employer must ‘average’ the actual earnings you have had in this period.
  • If you have received benefits such as ESA, invalidity pension, other sickness allowances within the last 12 weeks you are not eligible for SSP.
  • There is no minimum period you need to have worked for your employer to qualify for SSP.
  • There are no age limits to receiving SSP.
  • You must notify your Employer that you are sick as soon as possible – and within 7 days of the first day of your sickness (unless your Employer has its own time limited) and provide medical evidence. Your Employer can withhold payment for SSP for the period of delay in notifying them of your sickness where there is no good cause for the delay.

Fed up of the nine to five? Find out more about working for yourself.

SSP is not paid for the first 3 days of your sickness (these are called ‘Waiting Days’), but after that you are paid SSP for the days that you normally work.

If you arrive at work and do some work (even a minute) that day will not be treated as a day of incapacity for SSP purposes. If an employee works shifts, for example, a shift starting at 6pm on Friday and finishing at 2am on Saturday, if they become sick on Saturday that will count as a day of incapacity for SSP (even though they have worked part of their shift).

‘Periods of Incapacity for Work’ (PIW) can be linked and treated as one PIW if the gap between them is 8 weeks or less (56 days). SSP is paid for a maximum of 28 weeks and when it ends (or if you can no longer claim it) you may be able to claim Incapacity Benefit/Employment and Support Allowance from your local Job Centre; your employer needs to give you an SSP1 form which they complete and you send to your local Job Centre.

If you are only able to provide your employer with a non-UK medical certificate for a period of sickness (as you have been abroad), then the HMRC can arrange translation of the certificate into English if the employee is in dispute with the Employer about their SSP entitlement. Otherwise, Employers should arrange for the medical certificate to be translated.

If your employer does not pay you SSP or you believe they are paying you an incorrect amount, and if you cannot sort this out with your employer, you can contact your local HM Revenue and Customs office who will help – details are here – you may also be able to make a claim for an ‘unlawful deduction of wages‘ through an Employment Tribunal.

Employers are legally entitled to make deductions from SSP for salary overpayments, for example, but are not advised to do this as this could breach the implied duty of trust and confidence which exists between the employer and employee – more details about pay deductions are here.

Many employers may offer more generous payments to employees if they are off sick, under their own schemes (which may have different ‘reporting’ your sickness requirements).

From 6th April 2014, Employers will not be able to claim SSP costs back – see our new article here

If you are off sick you should let your employer know as soon as possible. If your sickness is caused by an accident at work, then your Employer should follow their accident reporting requirements under RIDDOR regulations – details are here. See our new article on accidents and injuries at work here.

Holiday entitlement during sick leave and sick leave during holidays! Since 2012 we have been getting closer to some clarity on what happens in these situations – see our August 2012 Guide to holiday entitlement and sick leave here for full details.

For details of your pay rights during your notice period go to this link.

In 2015 the Government will introduce a ‘Fit for Work’ Service for Employers to help manage long-term sickness and GP’s can refer employees to this scheme (as can an Employer with the employee’s consent) – you can read the details about the new service here.

The HRMC publish a Guide for Employers about paying SSP which you can see here.

Sick Notes

If you return from sickness within 7 days you should be required to fill in a self-certificate form explaining the nature of your sickness absence.

If you are ill for 7 days or more you need to get a certificate from your Doctor giving the reason why you could not go to work. Your Employer cannot withhold SSP if you are late in sending in a fit note, although they can withhold SSP if you are late in notifying them that you are sick.

As of 6th April 2010 these certificates are known as a ‘fit note’.

The purpose of the new fit-note is to encourage the gradual reintroduction of employees to work, as they recover from their illness, which the Government believed would help both employees and employers.

The new ‘fit’ note will only have 2 options. GP’s will indicate that sick individuals:

  • Are totally “unfit for work”
  • “May be fit for some work” (with GP’s advice)

They will not have an option to state you are fit for work.

The Government issued guidance and help for GP’s on completing the new fit notes (called Statement of Fitness for Work) and guidance for Employers on how to help employees return to work after periods of sickness.

In 2015, when the Government’s new Fit for Work service is launched a ‘Return to Work‘ Plan agreed under the Fit for Work scheme may be accepted in place of a Fit Note – more details are here.

Important information about fit notes:

  • The new ‘fit’ note can only be issued by GP’s for a maximum period of 3 months in the first 6 months of sickness.
  • The new statement is not required to be given to your employer until after the 7th calendar day of sickness.
  • The new system has no effect on how SSP functions or on Employers obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.
  • The old white sick note (called Med 3) or pink sick note (called Med 5) are both replaced by the one new form (Statement of Fitness for Work). The yellow (Med 10) form that is issued when an individual has been a hospital in-patient will not change and will continue to be issued.
  • GP’s are asked to choose ‘may be fit for work’ where they think the person may be able to return to work, even if not completely well, if they get suitable support from their Employers.
  • GP’s will then list whether an employee would benefit from a phased return to work, altered hours or duties or workplace adaptions, but they do not need to go into detail regarding what activities an employee can carry out.
  • The fit note will state whether you need to see your GP again (at the end of the duration of the fit note), before you return to normal or ‘supported’ work. If your GP does not need to see you again you would be expected to return to work at the end of the Statement period. If your GP needs to see you before this date, and during this consultation they feel you can return to normal work (without support, which is being called ‘functional limitations’) you will not be issued with a new statement.
  • If circumstances change during the period of the fit note duration and employees feel they are ready to return to work (with or without support), they need to return to their GP for an amended fit note.

More information on what the Employers guidance notes on fit-notes say:

  • Employers should discuss the GP’s ‘may be fit for some work’ comments with the employee to see if the GP’s suggestions can be accommodated.
  • If the matter cannot be resolved with the employee, Employers are asked to consider taking advice from an Occupational Health (OH) professional and/or contact the GP to discuss the comments.
  • If an Employer cannot provide the necessary support or cannot agree with the Employee about the type of support suggested by the GP, then the Government have advised that the GP’s comments are advisory only and so are not binding on the Employer. Where there is no agreement and the employee cannot return to work then the ‘fit note’ will be treated as a ‘not fit for work’ note, until the situation changes.

For information about dismissals due to ill-health see our Guide to how your Employment can come to an End here.

For information about disability and discrimination and more about reasonable adjustments see our Guide here.

If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.

Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.

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