The UK government has proposed to remove the three-day waiting period for sick pay and instead provide it from the first day of sickness absence.
In a joint statement, MPs Priti Patel and Sir Robert Buckland said that the current sick pay system is estimated to cost the exchequer around £55 billion in benefit payments, NHS costs, and tax forgone due to health-related worklessness, with the government effectively subsidising low sick pay.
The proposed reform from the MPs would ensure that all workers get sick pay from their employer from day one of their illness, and every worker can access at least some sick pay from their employer.
The changes are expected to complement other measures announced in Jeremy Hunt’s “back to work” budget and encourage more people to return to the workplace, boosting the UK’s economy.
Unum UK head of product proposition Clare Lusted said: “The proposed removal of the three-day waiting period as suggested in last week’s joint statement from senior MPs Priti Patel and Sir Robert Buckland is welcome,” Lusted says. “However, SSP’s replacement rate remains low. It also doesn’t support people experiencing longer absences and has eligibility criteria we believe to be too narrow.
“We urge there to be continued debate on reforming SSP. Last year Unum released its Statutory Sick Pay Report, marking the benefit’s 40th anniversary. This advocated for an overhaul of SSP, including widening eligibility, updating the rules to allow for flexible working, simplifying administration for employers and strengthening SSP as a safety net for employees. These remain more relevant — and necessary — now against the backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and the need for economic growth.
“In our comments following the Chancellor’s Spring 2023 Budget, we were glad to see his concept for subsidies for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that purchase occupational health benefits for staff. However, we challenged the Government to describe what they perceive as ‘occupational health’ as it felt too narrowly defined.
“Adopting a wider definition would encourage SMEs to invest more in their workforces and would complement our proposed SSP reforms. Combined, we feel these changes would better support employers to manage employee sickness absence, level up the health and wellbeing of Britain’s workers and contribute to the high-skilled growth our economy needs.
“Ensuring SSP kicks in from day one is only the first part of the discussion on how the system should be reformed more broadly.”