Long-Term Sick Pay in the UK

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Hannah Williamson

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31 Jan 2021

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When employees are on long term sick leave, you may wonder what they can claim in terms of their salary. As a business owner, it is always difficult to pay an employee and get no output in return. And, it can be difficult for the employee to hit the ground running when they do return.

Here we look at what the law entitles employee on long-term sick leave, so you can make legally compliant decisions that best help the business.

What counts as long-term sickness

We usually consider employees to be ‘long-term sick’ when they’ve been off work for four weeks or more. The four weeks don’t have to be continuous. It's possible to link periods if they last at least four days and are eight weeks apart or less.

Statutory sick pay for long-term absence

Law entitles most employees to up to 28 weeks of statutory sick pay (SSP.) The current rate for this long-term sick pay is £95.85 a week.  We class this as an earned income, so it will be subject to normal income tax and class 1 national insurance contributions.

To be eligible for this they must hit certain criteria, such as:

  • They must have an employee status and currently be working for you
  • They must earn a minimum of £120 per week
  • They must abide by your company absence rules, particularly when notifying you of absence
  • They must not be receiving statutory maternity, paternity, adoption or additional paternity pay.

This means your employees have a statutory right to sick pay for up to 28 weeks. After those 28 weeks are up, or if they never qualified for SSP in the first place, employees can apply for employment and support allowance (ESA).

Long term sickness benefits

After the 28 weeks are up, they can apply for employment and support allowance (ESA). How much is this long-term sickness benefit?

This depends on the category the employee is in. If they’re able to get back into work in the future, they’ll be in the “work-related activity group.” If they can’t get back into work, they’ll be in the “support group.”

These groups get the following amounts:

  • £74.35 a week for a work-related activity group
  • £113.35 a week for the support group

Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

Long-term illnesses can sometimes be a disability. This would entitle employees to disability benefits.

If the employee has a long-term ill-health condition or disability, the law entitles them to this. It also entitles them to SSP and any other contractual benefits.

They could receive between £23.60 and £151.40 a week if they’re aged 16 or over and have not reached State Pension age. This used to be the Disability Living Allowance (DLA.)

This can help your employees keep their heads above water during difficult circumstances. Thanks to this, you may potentially retain them.  

Company sick pay policy

Many businesses offer their own sick pay policy as a perk. Often this policy will extend the statutory allowance by:

  • Paying the full salary payments for a fixed period of absence
  • Switching to SSP once this period is over

Company sick pay policies differ by sector and ability to pay. Large, public-sector organisations often offer six months of full pay, followed by a further period on reduced pay. Smaller companies may not have the finances to match this.

Long-term sick holiday pay entitlements

The final question that occurs when an employee has an extended period of sickness absence is around annual leave. Can they carry it over into the next year?

A long-term sick employee is still entitled to annual leave. Those on long-term sick leave can carry their annual leave into the next holiday year. They don’t have to request to do this. You should pay them for this outstanding leave if you terminate their employment.

Expert support

If you want a sickness absence policy drafting or reviewing, we can help. If you need advice on managing an employee on long term sick leave, we can help. If you need someone to conduct meetings with the employee on your behalf, we can help.

Contact Croner for expert HR support whenever you need it on 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Hannah Williamson is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 10 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Manufacturing Industry.

Working for a Global manufacturer provided Hannah with the opportunity to work in America and across Europe supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Hannah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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