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)

Managing sick absence

How you record, monitor and control sickness absence is a matter for you to decide, but reducing sickness absence levels can reduce costs and increase productivity. You know your employees better than anyone else so you are in the best position to know whether repeated short absences for minor illnesses may be masking a more serious problem or some difficulty at work. Employers who have undertaken personnel or management initiatives to address such problems have seen significant reductions in sickness absence levels.

You may have reason to think that an employee who claims to be sick and incapable of work is, in fact, capable of doing their job and should return to work. If so, you may wish to have their incapacity reviewed by a doctor. If you do not have your own works doctor you can seek help from Medical Services.

If you wish to get advice from Medical Services, you should write to;

HMRC National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office
Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP2002
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

explaining that you are seeking Medical Services’ help about your employee. There is an example of a letter you may wish to use to advise your employee that you consider they are not entitled to SSP for this reason, on page 22.

Back to work action plans

Voluntary back to work action planning has been successful in returning people to work, particularly when used as part of an early intervention in long term sickness absence.

Evidence shows that people are more likely to get back to work when they and their employers talk during periods of sickness and make plans for returning to employment. It is generally acknowledged that back to work action planning could be a powerful tool in helping people get back to work quickly when they become ill.

Their purpose is to guide a discussion and set a framework for actions that employees and employers consider when an employee has been absent from work for a period of time probably between 4 – 6 weeks. It should provide a snapshot of information at a particular time and be open to regular review.

For further advice on managing sickness absence go to www.workingforhealth.gov.uk or www.hse.gov.uk/sicknessabsence

Seeking medical advice about lengthy absences

Experience has shown that when a serious illness or injury is diagnosed, for example, serious fractures, malignant diseases, pneumonia or an operation, it is unlikely that incapacity for work will be in doubt during the period for which SSP is payable. However, having a plan that considers what steps should be taken to aid a speedy return to work would be helpful.

Sometimes illnesses may continue longer than you would expect. The list on page 34 gives some of the diagnoses commonly given by doctors as the cause of incapacity on medical certificates or fit notes issued by them. Rather than specify every illness or disease, the list:

  • groups similar illnesses under one heading
  • suggests a period of absence from work after which you may wish to consider seeking advice.

Officers acting on behalf of the Secretary of State use similar guidance when considering the control of ESA.

If the employee’s incapacity for work lasts longer than would normally be expected you could decide to:

  • stop paying SSP, but you must explain your reasons to your employee
  • continue paying SSP but seek medical advice
  • accept the incapacity as genuine and continue paying SSP.

There is an example of a letter you may wish to use to advise your employee that you consider they are not entitled to SSP for this reason, on page 22.

If you decide to seek medical advice, you may:

  • use your own medical adviser, or
  • wish to seek a report from your employee’s doctor, or
  • seek the help of Medical Services.

If your business has its own medical adviser, you should ask them to look into the matter and give their opinion as to whether the employee is incapable of doing their own job with you or not. The exact arrangements that you have with your medical adviser to deal with these cases are a matter for you to decide.

Medical Services have a contract with DWP which allows them to give HMRC advice about your employee’s incapacity for work in connection with SSP.

If you wish to get advice from Medical Services, you should write to:

HMRC National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office
Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP2002
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

explaining that you are seeking Medical Services’ help about your employee.

Seeking medical advice about frequent absences for short periods

There may be some occasions when your employee has repeated short periods away from work and submits either self-certificates or fit notes provided by their doctor.

If your employee has been sick for four or more short periods in a 12–month period, you may decide to seek the help of Medical Services. You can do this even after your employee has returned to work.

If you wish to get advice from Medical Services, you should write to:

HMRC National Insurance Contributions & Employer Office
Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP2002
Benton Park View
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

explaining that you are seeking Medical Services’ help about your employee who has taken repeated short absences from work.

For advice on both lengthy and short absences, enclose:

  • your employee’s full name, address, date of birth, gender and NI number
  • date the latest period of sickness began and the nature of the illness certified by the doctor
  • your employee’s written consent, see the example in the right-hand column for the form of words that must be used
  • copies of any medical certificates or fit notes submitted by your employee over the last 12 months making sure the doctor’s name and address are clear. If not, ask your employee to obtain a new signature and/or address
  • your employee’s occupation and main activities involved in doing the job
  • reason for requesting an opinion
  • outcome of any control action already taken by you during the present spell of sickness
  • dates of any sick absences of at least four days over the past 12 months (details of the past two years, if known)
  • cause of incapacity given on each occasion, and
  • copies of the four or more self-certificates given by the employee.

HMRC will forward the case to Medical Services.

Medical Services will:

  • ask for a report from your employee’s doctor, and
  • if necessary, ask your employee to attend for an examination.

A report will be sent to HMRC. In addition to giving an opinion as to whether your employee is incapable of work, the doctor will say whether, in their opinion,

there are reasonable grounds for your employee having frequent absences from work for medical reasons. When HMRC receive the report, they will write to you. You will not be sent a copy of the report.

The medical report is given under contract to HMRC by Medical Services and is confidential. It can only be made available to other parties during the course of an appeal hearing when, with written consent from the employee, it is provided as evidence. If requested, the Medical Services’ doctor will attend the appeal hearing to give evidence relating to their report.

An example of written consent

Form of written consent

Name of employer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Full name of employee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Full address of employee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I agree that a medical opinion about my incapacity for work may be obtained by you from HMRC in connection with my entitlement to SSP. I agree that

my doctor may give relevant medical information to a doctor acting on behalf of HMRC and agree that, if necessary, a doctor acting on behalf of HMRC may medically examine me and send a report in confidence

to HMRC.

Employee’s signature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Date . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Employee refuses to give consent

If your employee refuses to give their written consent for you to seek medical advice, it is up to you to decide what to do next. You could decide that their refusal is sufficient grounds for you to doubt that the incapacity is genuine and stop paying SSP.

There is an example of a letter you may wish to use to advise your employee that you consider they are not entitled to SSP for this reason, on page 22.

If your employee is dissatisfied with your decision, they are entitled to a written statement from you. If they

are still dissatisfied, they are entitled to seek a formal decision from HMRC.

HMRC will:

  • ask Medical Services for a copy of the medical reports they have
  • reach a decision as to whether or not SSP should be paid
  • inform both you and your employee.

Action when you get the medical advice

If, after receiving medical advice, you decide to stop paying SSP to your employee, you should explain your decision to them, see page 29.

They are entitled to a written statement from you and can seek a formal decision on their entitlement to SSP from HMRC.

There is an example of a letter you may wish to use to advise your employee that you consider they are not entitled to SSP for this reason, on page 22.

Statutory Sick Pay Guide © Crown Copyright 2011

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