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Covid-19 and the Alteration in the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) System

During the pandemic, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) had been made available from day one (as opposed to day four) for those who tested positive for Covid-19 or were displaying symptoms. This alteration in the SSP system allowed employees that were worried or feared they had Covid-19 to access SSP from day one as opposed to day four. The Government recognised that making people wait risked forcing people to work when they were unwell. If an employee with a cold or flu decides to come on site or into the office because they again can’t afford to wait for SSP, said employee risks infecting staff members with the same cold or flu meaning more of the workforce either going off sick or not performing to the best of their ability.

Why Day One and not Day Four?

When off ill an employee should be focussing on their health and not when SSP comes in or how much SSP covers. Some people will return to work early due to SSP concerns. However, employees should be encouraged to return when they are fit and healthy and not due to concerns around finances. SSP from day one for more than just Covid-19 would allow employees who are off sick with both mental and physical health problems, to take the necessary time they need to fully recover. Paying SSP from day one will empower employees to take time off when they need to and return to the office recovered and reinvigorated - resulting in a happy and healthy workforce which will perform better. Allowing employees to take early action to protect their mental and physical health will also avoid long absences later down the line.

The Importance of an Employee’s Mental Health

While physical illness has typically dominated sickness absence from the manufacturing workplace, Make UK’s latest research revealed that an increasing number of both short-term and long-term sickness absences were due to an employee suffering with poor mental health:

  • 44% of manufacturers cited mental health and stress as the main reasons for short term absence
  • 56% of manufacturers cited mental health and stress as the main reasons for long term absence

Mental health as an issue has dramatically moved up the agenda for businesses, demonstrated by the fact that:

  • 29% of businesses now have a Board Director responsible for the mental health of employees
  • 57% of businesses offer bespoke mental health support

However, though these are positive signs and show the importance that is being placed on an employee’s mental health, there are still companies yet to demonstrate this:

  • 9% of companies said nobody has overall responsibility for mental health in the workplace
  • 14% of manufacturers do not offer any specific support at all regarding mental health

SSP and its Inclusion of Mental Health

There is a strong case then that the sick pay system isn’t working for people with poor mental health, deterring employees from taking days off sick even at times of poor mental health:

  • Only 10% of private sector employees who would benefit from taking time off when experiencing poor mental health will always or often take time off
  • More than half (51%) will always go to work

Yet, we know from the pandemic that changing the requirements to allow employees to access SSP from day one (as opposed to day four) can lead to positive impacts. More and more people experience times of poor mental health and as such, should be supported from day one for SSP and not made to choose between taking care of their own mental health, or covering the costs of their food and utility bills.


Join our campaign using #Day1ForEveryone and voice your support for modernising SSP

Available resources

Make UK / Blog