Daniel Parker: What are the ramifications of the DWP’s sick pay consultation?

Daniel Parker

The government’s consultation into statutory sick pay (SSP) contains a number of ostensibly minor tweaks to the SSP regime which, cumulatively, herald more substantial changes than might initially be thought.

The most headline-grabbing change is the proposed extension of SSP to workers earning below the existing lower earnings limit of £118 per week. This deliberately targets those in low-paid and precarious employment, and the consultation specifically refers to the issue that an individual may have multiple roles, none of which entitle them to SSP.

Part-time workers may also benefit from the redefinition of qualifying days. At present, a worker must be unwell for four qualifying days to receive SSP. Those days are commonly stated in their contract of employment. For example, a part-time worker may qualify on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The consultation suggests that, if the employer’s full-time working week is Monday to Friday, all of these days should now be ‘qualifying’, allowing a part-time worker to receive SSP sooner, in practice.

In the longer term, the consultation’s most significant impact may be the suggestion of a new and unified employment rights enforcement body to ensure compliance with employers’ SSP obligations.

At present, enforcement functions for employees’ statutory rights are spread across multiple agencies, including HM Revenue and Customs, depending on which rights or obligations are alleged to have been breached.

As ever, the key issue is likely to be one of funding. However, the consultation would indicate that a more proactive, rather than reactive, approach will now be taken to infringements of statutory entitlements such as SSP.

The potential impact of this change in approach is substantial, given that, although such rights are important to individuals in their day-to-day working lives, asserting them in the Employment Tribunal is often disproportionate in terms of both time and cost.

Daniel Parker is a solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood