Sick pay - how much do you get?

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Sick pay can be a confusing notion for employers and employees alike. Hannah Uttley explores staff coverage.

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“Added to this, we have massive change in the welfare state with the amalgamation of many benefits to the universal credit system, which may cloud the issue even further for employees and employers.”

Once an employee has exceeded the SSP period for time off work, the government will pay basic employment and support allowance (ESA) while applicants are assessed for work capability. Yet a Zurich survey at the end of last year found that a third of UK adults claimed they had “no idea” how long ESA could be claimed for.

A number of variables can affect the provision of occupational sick pay, from length of service to employee level within the organisation, with considerable variations in how long organisations provide sick pay depending on sector as well.

Company sick pay schemes in the public sector are, on the whole, far more generous than in the private sector.

More than two-thirds of public sectors employers provide full pay for more than 20 weeks, in contrast to just over a fifth in private sector services and about one-third in the manufacturing and production and non-profit sectors, past CIPD figures have shown.

Along with non-profit sector companies, findings also show that public sector organisations are much more likely to promote alternative procedures through good health and flexibility in order to reduce sickness absence.

Provision advantages

Staff retention and maintaining the wellbeing of employees are two of the main advantages of providing company sick pay, according to Ben Willmott, head of public policy at CIPD.

Yet determining the right balance in terms of how generous a scheme will be in relation to how long an employer can afford to pay it at full rate is something each firm will have to consider, Willmott said.

“From an employee perspective. if you are just on SSP then that can have some quite significant implications in terms of how do you keep up your payments on bills and mortgages, rent etc. It’s one of the reasons why SME absence levels, particularly long-term absence levels, are lower than in larger organisations because people will just fall out of employment and onto benefits because they can’t afford to continue just to rely on SSP,” he said.

 

“Whereas if you have a more generous occupational sick pay scheme then it gives you more scope to hopefully return to work.”

But with some companies offering such favourable sick pay coverage to staff, how do employers ensure employees don’t take advantage of such schemes?

The introduction of rehabilitation and return to work services as an add-on to group income protection (GIP) policies by insurers has seen schemes adopt a full circle approach in how they treat patients.

Jamie Winter, senior consultant, healthcare and risk consulting at Towers Watson, noted that – if intervention techniques are staged properly – employers might even be able to avoid a great deal of sickness absence, particularly when employees are suffering issues such as mental health conditions.

This article continues...

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