The UK Government has announced that it plans to reduce the minimum amount that employees have to earn in order to qualify for statutory sick pay. This means that 2 million low-paid employees who are currently not eligible to receive statutory sick pay could soon be getting this entitlement.
What is Statutory Sick Pay?
Statutory sick pay is a payment made by employers to their employees who are too unwell to work. The statutory sick pay amount, as set by the UK Government, is currently £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks. This is the minimum that employers are legally obliged to pay to eligible employees, but some employers may offer more.
There is certain eligibility criteria that an employee must meet in order to receive statutory sick pay. It is this criteria that the Government may soon be changing.
Eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay
Under current law, an employee must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for statutory sick pay. This includes a minimum earning threshold.
The current eligibility criteria is as follows:
- Must be classed as an employee (this includes agency workers)
- Must have already done some work for their employer
- Must have been ill for 4 or more days in a row
- Must earn at least £118 per week on average
- Must inform their employer of their illness within 7 days (or within their employer's stated deadline, if this is different)
There are a couple of exceptions to the above, including any employees who are receiving statutory maternity pay and those that have already received statutory sick pay for 28 weeks.
Reducing the Minimum Earning Threshold for Statutory Sick Pay
The Government is now proposing a reduction to the minimum earning threshold. The current requirement for employees to earn a minimum of £118 per week equates to 14 hours per week for those on the national minimum wage.
Under the proposals, eligibility for statutory sick pay would be extended to people earning less than this amount. The Government hasn't yet released details of exactly what the threshold will be reduced to or whether the threshold will be eliminated altogether.
Introducing Phased Returns to Work
Alongside the proposed changes to the minimum threshold, the Government is also considering introducing phased returns to work. This would mean that employees could continue receiving statutory sick pay during their phased return and small businesses would be offered a rebate after supporting an employee to return to work.
Employees could also be given the right to request flexible working, to help them return to work after a period of sickness.
Why Are the Government Making These Changes?
The primary purpose of the proposed changes is to support people back into work after illness and reduce the number of employees that quit their jobs after taking sick leave. Every year, over 100,000 employees quit their jobs after taking 4 or more weeks of sick leave. By making these changes, the Governments hopes to reduce this statistic by addressing the underlying issues.
The UK Heath Secretary, Matt Hancock, explained that the proposals ultimately seek to "remove the barriers that stop people with disabilities or health conditions from reaching their full potential."
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