Support and pay during periods of sickness absence

Jun 15, 2020 | HR

How do you support and pay an employee during periods of sickness absence?

As an employer, it’s important that you understand what you must and what you should do when it comes to having employees who are off sick from work. Here is some general advice to follow.

The Pay Bit

Sickness absence day 1 to day 3 can be legally unpaid days, check your contracts and/or sickness absence policy to confirm. They are called waiting days under Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules.

From day 4 of continuous sickness absence you must pay the minimum SSP rate (you can find the current rate on the government website) providing your employee earns at least £118 per week.
SSP can be paid for up to 28 weeks sickness absence.  Following that period, the employee can apply for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) which is paid by the Government.

It’s essential to bear in mind though that employees continue to accrue holiday entitlement throughout their period of employment so even if you’re no longer paying SSP, they are still accruing holiday and that will need to be paid to them at some point.

The Support Bit

We advocate return to work interviews as one of the tools to support short term sickness absence.  There are several reasons that these interviews work, among them the fact that employees don’t really want to have to sit in front of their Manager every time they take a single day off.  They may just think twice next time they wake up with a bit of a cold or a hangover!

That will help to deal with the persistent short-term absence but what about longer term absence?
Long term sickness absence is generally regarded as being at the 6 week mark.  Within the first 6 weeks of sickness absence it is a good idea to keep in touch via phone or email, this will help to set out how you intend to handle the situation should it move in to long term absence.

Once you hit the 6 week mark you should try to arrange a welfare meeting with the employee, meet with them in a neutral place if required but we would always suggest doing these meetings face to face if possible.

You should be asking questions about any potential return to work dates, any adjustments that could be made to accommodate an earlier return to work and you should also be keeping them up to date with what is happening in the business so that they don’t feel so isolated.

These welfare meetings should be continued throughout the sickness absence.

If you reach a situation where there is deadlock or no real chance of a return to work, please do seek advice from our HR Experts – you are not alone!  Get in touch.


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