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Reforming statutory sick pay and reducing ill health-related job loss
18/07/2019

Following the Prime Minister’s recent announcement about a new package of measures to tackle the barriers faced by disabled people in the workplace, the government has now launched a public consultation, entitled “Health is everyone’s business”, to explore the different ways in which action can be taken to reduce ill health-related job loss.  

The proposals contained in the consultation aim to support and encourage early action by employers for their employees with disabilities and long-term health conditions and they include:

  • Extending statutory sick pay (SSP) to low-paid employees – under existing provisions, only those who earn at least the Lower Earnings Limit (currently £118 per week) qualify for SSP, so many part-time employees are excluded. The government proposes that those earning below the LEL would be paid a proportion of their wages as SSP, set at 80%, and those earning above the LEL would continue to receive a flat rate of SSP
  • Amending the SSP rules to allow for flexible, phased returns to work following sickness absence, i.e. so that SSP does not immediately stop if an employee returns to work on reduced hours or days – the government proposes that the employee would be able to receive part wage and part SSP (pro rata) on a phased return to work after two or more weeks of absence and it intends to create an online calculator to help employers calculate what they would pay an employee during the phased return
  • Considering whether to simplify the SSP rules by removing the rules about qualifying days so that every day of the week could be considered a qualifying day (but retaining waiting days as the number of days a week that an employee normally works)
  • Considering whether to offer small and medium businesses a rebate of SSP to reward those who effectively manage employees with disabilities and long-term health conditions who are on sick leave and help them get back to work – the proposal here is very vague at this stage and it seems to favour linking the rebate to good employer behaviours rather than it being an automatic entitlement
  • Considering whether enforcement of SSP should be included within the remit of a proposed new single labour market enforcement body and whether employers should receive increased fines for failing to meet their SSP obligations
  • Considering whether to introduce a new right for employees to request work or workplace modifications on health grounds, for the benefit of employees who do not meet the definition of being disabled and so are not covered by the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 – the government envisages this would operate in a similar way to the existing right to request flexible working and would be distinct from, and in addition to, the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees
  • Considering whether to strengthen statutory guidance to encourage employers to take “early, sustained and proportionate steps” to support a sick employee to return to work, before that employee can be fairly dismissed on the grounds of ill health affecting their capability
  • Exploring how to improve employers’ access to high quality, cost-effective occupational health (OH) services, especially for smaller employers and self-employed people, such as by co-funding the purchase of OH through a direct subsidy or voucher scheme
  • Improving the provision of advice and information to support management of health in the workplace and encourage better-informed purchasing of expert-led advice
  • Exploring the possibility of employers automatically reporting sickness absence through their payroll system, so that the government has the data to be able to provide timely and targeted guidance to employers on how to manage sickness absence.

The consultation closes on 7 October 2019.