Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss

Published on 9 October 2019

We focus our comments on how Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) should be reformed to better support people with disabilities and long-term health conditions. To achieve this aim, overall, we say that the government need to think holistically about how they can create supportive working environments – the availability of SSP, in reality, is probably only a very small part of this. However, we agree that the system of SSP is inflexible and does not reflect modern working practices – improvements to the system would help alleviate the increasing (and often competing) pressures in the workplace and so would be worthwhile from that perspective at least.

going back to work after an illness or disability
©shutterstock/Natee K Jindakum

Some comments and recommendations we make include:

  • We do not think that the current SSP system will be acting as a prompt for many employers to support an employee to return to work. However, something like the Fit for Work occupational health assessment service and related tax exemption (if properly explained and promoted by government) could help small and micro employers be more proactive in terms of them supporting an employee to return to work.
  • Facilitating phased returns to work within SSP is a good idea. In addition to an online calculator on GOV.UK, HMRC's Basic PAYE Tools should also be programmed to calculate and record phased return to work SSP.
  • We agree with widening SSP eligibility to those who earn under the Lower Earnings Limit and to the proposed 80% of earnings rate. Such workers may well be on welfare benefits or have more than one job. We recommend that work is done to ensure that there are no unintended consequences and that all interactions such as with universal credit entitlement have been considered before making a decision on how best to move forward. 
  • In terms of widening eligibility, it would be helpful and intuitive if SSP was also made expressly a ‘worker’ employment law right rather than one reliant on there being a secondary contributor (that is, someone that is liable to employers’ National Insurance), in order that some ‘dependent’ self-employed people could benefit.
  • It has long been our view that the low-paid require their positions to be protected through effective state enforcement (due to the imbalance of power/their inability to articulate problems etc.) and this must include payment of SSP. However, enforcement officers should be careful not to get bogged down in chasing small administrative errors or technical oversights, as there are more serious abuses to be tackled that serve to deny employees SSP – for example, bogus self-employment.
  • We are pleased that this consultation considers how a rebate of SSP might work, as the removal of the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) was a material and significant change for small and micro employers – including many care and support employers. We do not think that a rebate should be only available to those that demonstrate ‘best practice’ in supporting employees on sickness absence, as it is not clear what would be considered ‘best practice’ or how this would be monitored. We believe the simplest and fairest thing to do would be to make a rebate universal to small and micro employers (ideally at a rate of 103%, to match other statutory payments, although we recognise there are no easy answers as to where this money would come from). It should be quick and easy to claim in order to avoid cash flow issues – the ‘advance funding’ system in place for statutory payments may need to be improved.

Our submission can be found here: Health is everyone’s business: proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss – LITRG comments

(04-10-2019)

Contact: Meredith McCammond (please use form at Contact Us) or follow us on Twitter: @LITRGNews