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

3 Hydref 2019

Health is everyone’s business: Proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss [ 190 kb]

In 2018/19, we helped almost 140,000 people with 220,000 issues relating to  employment, including 17,000 issues around entitlement to sick pay and 14,000 of these relating to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) specifically. Millions more have accessed our employment advice online.

We have a detailed understanding of how the labour market is changing, the  implications this has on the lives of workers and their experience of SSP. The real-time data we receive from our clients helps us to identify emerging issues, understand what  is causing them and make recommendations on how to fix those problems.

Our principal concern regards the enforcement of SSP. Rights are only as good as the ability to enforce them. Unfortunately, our evidence shows that employers can avoid payment of SSP in several ways:

  • Calculating entitlement to SSP based on minimum contractual hours rather than hours worked over the last 8 weeks leading up to the period of sickness.

  • Bogus self-employment: our research indicates that up to 460,000 workers may  be falsely self-employed.

  • Removing people from rotas so that it appears they are not employees and  therefore not eligible for SSP. Our evidence shows that this is a particular risk for  people with fluctuating hours - either because they have a zero hour contract, variable shifts or few set hours and rely on paid overtime.

There is therefore a clear need to improve the enforcement of SSP, to ensure that all those that are eligible to receive it do so. This could also reduce the pressure on the state: we see some employers telling their employees they are not entitled to SSP, requiring the employee to claim benefits instead.

We support the Government’s proposals to enhance the existing HMRC dispute  resolution service with proactive, public enforcement of people’s rights. ​We recommend this is included within the Government’s proposed Single Enforcement Body.

To help ensure everyone who is currently falsely self-employed receives the SSP they’re entitled to, we also recommend that the Government consider a statutory definition of self-employment. While we recognise this falls outside this consultation’s current remit, it would greatly extend SSP protections, helping meet the government’s objective of reducing illness related job loss.

We also welcome the government’s proposals to reform and extend SSP regulations. In particular, we welcome the proposals to offer flexible phased returns, reform how the regulations define SSP qualifying days, and expand the eligibility for SSP to extend protection to those on the lowest incomes earning below the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL).