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Sickness Absence: Employers Questions Answered

Why is it beneficial for an employer to have a Sick Pay Policy in...

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Sickness Absence: Employers Questions Answered

15th April 2019

News : Employment Law

Why is it beneficial for an employer to have a Sick Pay Policy in place?

This provides an employer a platform to specify the process and rules an employee must follow with regards to sickness absence, providing fairness through consistency. It can also provide standards that should be met by an employee and employer.

What should a Sick Pay Policy contain?

All information relating to an employee’s incapacity and sickness absence i.e. any reporting procedures and self-certification, requirements relating to evidence of incapacity or illness, what is expected from an employee whilst they are off work and any details pertinent to statutory sick pay (and company sick pay, if offered).

An employer can also include procedures for monitoring absences which will in turn enable them to identify any problems in the workforce. For example, if the findings show that absence is an issue in one shop on Wednesdays which coincidentally lines up with the mangers rotation to another shop, the management know how to address this issue immediately.

It is also strongly recommended that employers and employees carry out Return to Work Interviews and complete the relevant paperwork. There is evidence to suggest that this may reduce short term absence and in any event this is recommended by ACAS. The sickness absence policy can highlight when they should be conducted i.e. for absences longer than 3 days or for all absences irrespective of days absent.

It may also demonstrate that you have done what is reasonably expected of you as an employer to show that you have not discriminated against anyone with a disability. For example, if you are asking an employee the reason for their absence and whether you can do anything to assist and support them. Their continuous refusal of a return to work interview (which will be documented) may mean that it is much less likely they will be able to subsequently claim that you have failed to make reasonable adjustments and as such discriminated against them on the grounds of disability. The interviews need not be very formal and do not need to be lengthy.

Who Qualifies for Statutory Sick Pay?

It may come as a surprise to many but there is no specific statutory right to absence for an employee who is sick. However, this is usually provided for in the contract of employment and/or the employer’s sickness absence policy. If it’s not expressed as a particular clause in the contract then it may be argued that it is an implied term of the contract that an employee should not be forced to work if they are unfit to do so.

Whilst there is no specific right for entitlement to sick leave, there is however a statutory entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP), subject to eligibility. An employee, if eligible, can get £92.05 per week  if they’re too ill to work (rate as at the time of writing). This will be paid by the employer for up to 28 weeks.

Eligibility for SSP can be included in the policy as a forum to advise employees. The benefit of this being a non-contractual policy is that it can easily be amended (updated) by an employer. For completeness, the current criteria for eligibility for SSP is:

  • Must fall within the ‘employee’ status and be working for the employer.
  • Illness must last for longer than 4 days in a row.
  • Employee much earn at least £116 per week.
  • Employer must be notified in accordance with the sick pay policy – or within 7 days if there isn’t one.

Is Contractual Sick Pay a Legal Requirement?

Whilst there is no legal entitlement to contractual or company sick pay it is not uncommon for an employee to provide for this in conjunction with statutory sick pay. This is generally down to managerial discretion as to whether this is incorporated into an employee’s contract or a company’s sick pay policy.

If you have any questions about the above or if you need to speak with a member of our specialist employment department then please do not hesitate to get in touch. We can provide bespoke polices to suit your business needs.

It may also be helpful for you to know that we offer HR-assist. This will include your tailored contracts, bespoke policies and any guidance and support for all of your HR needs.





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