Advice: What are my rights when it comes to sick pay?

Pat Hutchinson MBE.
Pat Hutchinson MBE.

By Pat Hutchinson MBE, District Manager, Citizens Advice Newtownabbey

Q: I have been employed for three years and I earn £220 per week net. I have been off sick with shingles and my employer won’t pay me any sick pay. What are my rights?

A: If you are off sick from work, you might get: Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) - money paid by law that most employees are entitled to if they are off sick; Contractual sick pay - money that your contract of employment says you are entitled to if you are off sick.

• Statutory Sick Pay - If you are off sick from work, you may get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). SSP is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

To get SSP, you must earn more than £112 a week. If you cannot get SSP, for example, because you do not earn enough or if you have been off sick for more than 28 weeks, your employer will give you form SSP1 and tell you why. You can use form SSP1 to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from your local Jobs and Benefits office or Social Security office.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is paid at a fixed weekly rate of £88.45.

You will not get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for the first three days that you can’t work, unless you were getting it within the last eight weeks. If you were off sick and getting SSP within the last eight weeks, you will get it again from your first day off work without having to wait for three days.

• Contractual sick pay - Your contract of employment may give you more than the amount of SSP you can get and you may get it for a longer period. Sick pay under your contract is called contractual sick pay.

Contractual pay might not be your normal rate of pay, but it cannot be less than SSP.

• Self-certification of sickness and SSP - During your first seven days off sick, your employer must not ask you for a medical certificate. However, they can ask you for confirmation that you are sick and you must provide it if they ask for it, otherwise you may not get any SSP.

• Medical certificates or fit notes - Medical certificates can also be known as fit notes. You only have to give your employer a doctor’s fit note if you miss more than seven days of work. On a medical certificate, your doctor can say that you’re not fit for work or may be fit for work. Your doctor can also recommend that your employer makes some changes at your workplace.

• If you are off sick because of a disability - If you are disabled and your employer refuses to give you sick pay when you are off sick for a reason connected with your disability, they could be breaking the law. You may be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal for disability discrimination. You may have to raise a written grievance with your employer first.

• What you can do if your employer won’t pay you Statutory Sick Pay - If you think you should be getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) but your employer won’t pay it, they should give you a statement on form SSP1 explaining why. You use this form to: claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and ask for your entitlement to SSP to be reconsidered.

If you think you should have been paid SSP and can’t resolve the dispute with your employer, you can ask them for a reason. If this doesn’t sort the problem, contact the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) employees’ enquiry line. Telephone: 0300 200 3500 or Textphone: 0300 200 3212 Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

• What you can do if your employer won’t pay you contractual sick pay - If your employer won’t pay you the contractual sick pay that you are entitled to, this is breach of contract. You could make a claim for unlawful deduction of wages to an employment tribunal. You may need to raise a grievance with your employer first.

If you are getting SSP, you are treated as being in work for the purposes of getting Working Tax Credit and you’ll carry on getting it.

• Get free, confidential and independent advice from your nearest Citizens Advice – go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk/nireland or call at: Citizens Advice Newtownabbey, Dunanney Centre, Rathmullan Drive, Rathcoole, Newtownabbey, BT37 9DQ. Telephone advice is available 9am – 4pm each day on 028 9085 2271 (Lunch 1:00 - 1:30pm), email advice is available at enewtownabbey@citizensadvice.co.uk