Changes to Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance (CoViD)

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced an end to day-one access to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), effective from the 1st April 2022. After that point, workers suffering from CoViD-related illness will have to wait until their fourth day of illness to qualify for SSP.

Commentary on the announcement was dominated by reaction to the end of free CoVid testing, but it was bundled in with changes to SSP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

SSP is a payment of £96.35 per week that an employer must pay to an employee who is too ill to work.

It normally becomes payable from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (i.e. the fourth day that an employee would normally be required to work) and this has been the case for people with non-CoViD-related illnesses throughout the pandemic.

However, people who could not work for CoViD-related reasons (i.e. because they were self-isolating due to either their own illness or other reasons) could claim SSP from their first day of absence from work. This change was introduced to encourage people to comply with self-isolation rules. The only exception was for people who were self-isolating after entering / returning to the UK and who weren’t self-isolating for any other reason.

The TUC have condemned the move, saying that it affects the rights of 7.8 million workers relying on it. They have also taken the opportunity to highlight the UK’s very poor sick-pay provision – amongst the lowest in Europe – and have been pressing for improvements.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The failure to provide decent sick pay to all – from the first day of illness – is reckless and self-defeating. If people can’t afford to stay home when they’re sick, they will take their infections into work. Ministers’ inability to grasp this fact will leave the UK vulnerable to future variants and pandemics.”

Bectu’s Freelance members need to understand that SSP is something that they may have no entitlement to anyway.

When we talk about Freelancers, we usually mean people who work for lots of engagers for shorter periods of time than an ordinary employee. In some cases, people who call themselves Freelancers may be working on a short PAYE contract where they have a pay-packet and all of the employment rights that one would expect to have in the early days of an employment contract. These workers will qualify for SSP. Others won’t though.

SSP is certainly paid to people who have Employee Status in employment law terms (i.e they work under a contract of employment). This becomes a lot more complicated for someone with Worker status, and while there are some circumstances in which they can claim SSP from an employer, it is very likely that they won’t qualify because they are paid ‘gross’ (i.e. their employer doesn’t deduct Tax or National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from their pay-packet – and crucially, the employer doesn’t pay Class One (i.e. Employers) NICs either. [1]

From the 1st April, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will only be available from the eighth day for people who have a disability or health condition that affects how much they can work. Again, prior to these changes, during the CoViD pandemic, this benefit was also available from day one onwards.

[1] This is a complex matter that is ‘in play’ with ongoing controversies around employment status and ‘the gig economy’. Low Income Tax Group have a detailed briefing on this issue here.

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