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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 Employment and Support Allowance. The gov.uk page gives more details of this change.
The government introduced temporary changes to SSP and fit notes during the coronavirus pandemic, which we detail below.
The standard rate of SSP is £95.85 per week from April 2020. This will increase to £96.35 per week from 4th April 2021. You’re entitled to SSP from your employer if you meet the following conditions:
SSP isn’t paid for the first three days of your sickness (these are called ‘Waiting Days’), but after that, you’re paid SSP for the days that you normally work.
If you arrive at work and do perform some duties (even a minute), that day won’t be treated as a day of incapacity for SSP purposes. If you’re a shift worker and, for example, work a shift from 6pm on Friday to 2am on Saturday, then fall sick later that Saturday, that will count as a day of incapacity (even though you’ve worked part of your shift).
‘Periods of Incapacity for Work’ (PIW) can be linked and treated as one PIW if the gap between them is eight 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’re only able to provide your employer with a non-UK medical certificate for a period of sickness (as you have been abroad), HMRC can arrange translation of the certificate into English if the employer disputes your SSP entitlement. Otherwise, employers should arrange for the medical certificate to be translated.
If your employer doesn’t pay your SSP, or if you believe they’re not paying you the correct amount, you can contact your local HMRC office for help. You may also be able to make a claim for an unlawful deduction of wages through an Employment Tribunal.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government will temporarily:
The government has already issued guidance to employers, advising them to use their discretion not to require a GP fit note for COVID-19 related absences. A temporary alternative to the fit note which can be used for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, is available via NHS111 (this can be used as evidence for absence from work, where necessary). This notification would meet employers’ need for evidence, whilst taking pressure away from General Practices.
This notification would meet employers’ need for evidence, whilst taking pressure away from General Practices.
The government recognises that self-employed people and employees below the Lower Earnings Limit are not entitled to SSP. The government believes the best system of financial support for these people is the welfare system and, in particular, ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
The Budget announced further support by making it quicker and easier to receive benefits:
The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs.
The eligibility criteria for the scheme are as follows:
Employers are legally entitled to make deductions from SSP for salary overpayments, for example, but are advised not to do so as this could breach the implied duty of trust and confidence which exists between the employer and employee. Check out our article, “Guide to pay, wages, pay cuts, and ‘unauthorised deductions’“, for more information.
Employers can no longer reclaim SSP costs from their employees.
If you’re off sick, you should let your employer know as soon as possible. If your sickness is caused by an accident at work, your employer should follow their accident reporting requirements under RIDDOR regulations. Check out our article, “What happens if I’m injured at a client’s premises?“, for more information on injuries and accidents at work.
You can find out more about holiday entitlement and sick leave in our “Holiday entitlement and sick leave – some clarity?” article.
If you return from sickness within seven days, you should be required to fill in a self-certificate form explaining the nature of your sickness absence.
If you’re ill for seven days or more, you need to get a certificate from your Doctor explaining why you couldn’t go to work. Your employer can’t withhold SSP if you’re late in sending in a fit note, although they can withhold SSP if you’re late in notifying them that you’re sick.
These certificates are known as fit notes.
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.
A fit note will only have two options. GP’s will indicate that sick individuals:
They won’t have an option to state you are fit for work.
For information about dismissals due to ill-health see our guide to how your employment can come to an end.
For information about disability and discrimination and more about reasonable adjustments see our guide.
Since self-employed workers are not generally covered by Statutory Sick Pay, you may wish to consider Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). This is a welfare program that supports those whose capacity to work has been affected either by sickness or disability.
When you apply for ESA, you will need to meet certain conditions to prove that your ability to work has been compromised directly by your sickness or disability. Those who qualify will be eligible for £73.10 a week, or £57.90 for under-25s.
In light of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020/21, it was announced in the March 2020 UK budget that those claiming ESA will be able to claim from day one of their illness, rather than the standard day eight.
As part of the emergency Coronavirus support announced in the Budget, the Chancellor has announced “quicker and easier” access to Universal Credit for the self-employed and those working in the gig economy, as well as to ‘new style’ ESA. The government will also be temporarily relaxing the requirements of the minimum income floor in Universal Credit for those directly affected or self-isolating according to government advice for the duration of the outbreak.
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.