Statutory Sick Pay Guide for Employers (2011-2012)

Example - Weekly paid employee

This Sick Pay Guide is reference only. For the most up-to-date advice see the Statutory Sick Pay Guide for Employers (2012-2013)

Overview of the SSP Scheme

Terms used in this Guide

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

A measure of earnings replacement for employees who are off work because of sickness. Employers are liable to pay this to all their employees who satisfy all the qualifying conditions when they are off work sick.


For Statutory Sick Pay purposes an employee is a person whose earnings attract a liability for employer’s secondary Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NICs), or would but for the person’s age or level of their earnings.

Employees include office holders, for example police officers, Members of Parliament, the judiciary and some company directors.

People who are classed as employed earners, for example, agency workers are also employees for SSP.

A person who does not have an employer in the UK that is liable to pay secondary Class 1 NICs on their earnings (for example some people who work in embassies) may pay voluntary employee Class 1 NICs. Such a person is not an employee for SSP purposes.


An employer is whoever is liable to pay the employer’s secondary Class 1 NICs, or would be but for the employee’s age or level of earnings. For SSP purposes, if you have to pay employer’s secondary Class 1 NICs for your employees, or would but for their age or level of earnings and they satisfy all the qualifying conditions for SSP, then you will be responsible for making the SSP payment.

If you have an employee who resides and is employed by you in another EU country, you will be required to pay social security payments (equivalent to NICs) even if you do not have a place of business there. You may also be liable to pay any benefit payable under those schemes to your employee.

If you think this may apply to you more information can be found at

If you are not sure who is an employee and who is an employer for SSP contact the Employer Helpline on 08457 143 143.

Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW)

A period of sickness lasting at least four or more days in a row. All days of sickness count towards the total number of days in a PIW, including bank holidays, weekends and non-working days. If there are less than four consecutive days there is no PIW and you need take no action. To check if an employee’s PIW links with a previous PIW, see the tables for linking periods of incapacity for work (PIW).

Lower Earnings Limit (LEL)

This is the minimum level of earnings that employees need to qualify for statutory payments such as SSP. It is also the minimum level that an employee’s Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) must reach in a specific period for them to get SSP. See Has your employee earned enough in the relevant period? to work out AWE. For 2011–12 the LEL is £102.00 weekly.

Qualifying Days (QDs)

These are the only days you can:

  • pay SSP for, and
  • count as Waiting Days (WDs).

They are usually the days of the week your employee normally works; their contracted working days.

You can decide not to use the contracted working days if, for example, your workforce operates a varied or alternative working pattern each week. For simplicity you may want to have the same days each week as the QDs, but you must first reach agreement with your workforce or their representative(s) about which days will be QDs. You cannot use different QDs than the actual work pattern without agreement with your employees.

There must be at least one QD in each week running from Sunday to Saturday. Bank Holidays and other non-working days do not alter the normal pattern of QDs.

Waiting Days (WDs)

SSP is not payable for the first three QDs in a PIW. These are called Waiting Days (WDs). They are not always the first three days of sickness as the employee may have been sick on non-QDs. Where PIWs are linked and all three WDs have been served in the first PIW, there will be no WDs in any later linked spells of sickness. But, if all three WDs have not been served in the first PIW, any remaining WDs must be served at the beginning of the next linked PIW or series of linked PIWs.

Normal payday

Regulations define a ‘normal payday as either the payday specified in the contract, or the day on which the employee is usually paid if they have no contract or their contract does not specify a payday’.


Periods of Incapacity for Work (PIWs) are linked and treated as one PIW if the gap between them is eight weeks or less. Any subsequent spells of sickness must be four or more days in a row to form another PIW, otherwise there is no subsequent PIW to link with an earlier PIW. The tables for linking periods of incapacity for work (PIW) will help you decide if PIWs are linked.

Linking letters

Jobcentre Plus or in Northern Ireland the Jobs and Benefits Office give these forms to people who have recently received benefit. You will need to ask any new employee’s who go sick for four or more days in a row in the first 104 weeks after they start, or return to work for you, if they were given one of these forms.

If they say they do not have one of these forms but you think they may have been getting Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the last 104 weeks, you can check with your local Jobcentre Plus or in Northern Ireland the Jobs and Benefits Office to see if they are entitled to receive ESA.

Where the information required is related to possible entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay, certain details can be disclosed to an employer without the customer’s consent. Jobcentre Plus can tell you:

  • Whether there is a link to Employment and Support Allowance(ESA).
  • The Expected Week of Confinement (EWC) for pregnant women and if there is entitlement to Maternity Allowance (MA).
  • The EWC for women who are not entitled to either Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or MA.
  • Whether a Maternity Pay Period (MPP) exists for the employee.
  • The first day in the MPP and the weeks for which there was liability to pay SSP.

Since the abolition of the linking rules for Incapacity Benefit (IB) from 31 January 2011, there is no longer a requirement for employers to accept linking letters for employees who have previously been in receipt of IB. For more information see New from 6 April 2011.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

Employment and Support Allowance is a Social Security Benefit, that is paid because of an illness or disability.

Occupational Sick Pay (OSP)

You can choose to opt out of fully operating the SSP Scheme in favour of your own Occupational Sick Pay (OSP). However, your employee may still have underlying entitlement to SSP and you must also maintain records of sickness. See Keeping Records for details of what records you need to keep.

Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS)

The scheme under which you may be able to recover some, or all, of the SSP you have paid to your employees in a tax month. See Recovering SSP for more information.


For working out SSP entitlement and payment, a week is a period of seven days starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday.

Statutory Sick Pay Guide © Crown Copyright 2011

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