Green paper on sick pay deadline nears

Employers have only a few weeks left to put forward their views on government proposals to change their responsibilities around sick pay under the Welfare Reform Green Paper.

Currently under consultation, the Green Paper proposes to abolish the three-day waiting period before an employee can first become entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) and the reimbursement of SSP costs to employers.

Some employers do not pay for the first three days of absence before SSP kicks in or their own occupational health scheme commences, in a bid to deter employees from taking bogus sick days. Last year, Tesco announced that it was not going to pay sick pay for the first three days for those joining after July last year.

But it tends to be common practice among large employers to make payments for these three days above the rate of SSP.

Naeema Choudry, a partner at the law firm Eversheds pointed out that if the proposals do become law, employers who do not pay for the first three days will need to alter their schemes.

She added: "What they might do is say, okay, we’re not going to pay in full for the first three days. We will comply with our legal requirements so we will pay SSP for the first three days, but we are not going to pay the full occupational health pay [from day one]." The consultation period for the proposed changes ends on April 21. She said any legal amendments to SSP could take affect as early as October 2006.

However, a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions, could not confirm this.