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HMRC internal manual

Statutory Payments Manual

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP): general information - period of incapacity for work (PIW) and waiting days (WDs)

Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW)

SSP is only paid to an employee who is absent from work due to sickness for at least four calendar days in a row, forming a PIW. Section 152 Social Security Contrbutions and Benefits Act (SSCBA) 1992 and 148 SSCB(NI)A 1992

The PIW is made up of all days of incapacity or deemed incapacity when the employee did no work for their employer, including:

  • non-working days such as weekends or rest days
  • holidays
  • any other days which the employee would not normally be expected to work.

For example, if an employee works Monday to Friday and is ill on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, a PIW has been formed even though they were only absent from work on the Monday and Tuesday. Their employer must, therefore, consider whether SSP is payable.

Note: SSP is not paid for any days the employee was not expected to work.

Linking PIWs

Where two PIWs are separated by a gap of eight weeks (56 days) or less, they link and are treated as one PIW. Entitlement to SSP is decided by applying the qualifying conditions to the first day of the first PIW and not to the beginning of any later, linked PIW.

Maximum 28 weeks SSP due in PIW

The maximum liability to pay SSP in an unlinked or series of linked PIW is 28 times the relevant weekly rate.

Once the maximum amount of SSP has been paid, if an employee begins a further PIW which does not link to an earlier PIW, the maximum liability is a further 28 times the relevant weekly rate.

The employer will need to re-calculate their maximum liability if the weekly amount of SSP changes during the PIW because:

  • the number of qualifying days change, or
  • a new SSP rate comes into force.

Employee’s linked PIW last for more than three years

An employee may have any number of linked PIWs but entitlement to SSP ends if the series of linked PIWs with the same employer lasts for more than three years, even if the total SSP paid is less than the maximum payable, which is 28 weeks.

Once the link is broken by a gap between the last day of the earlier PIW and the first day of the next PIW of at least 57 days, a fresh PIW may be formed with a fresh maximum entitlement of 28 weeks.

Waiting Days (WDs)

WDs are the first three Qualifying Days (QD) in a PIW and in accordance with section 155(1) of the SSCBA 1992 and section 151(1) SSCB(NI)A SSP is not payable for these days.

WDs are not always the first three days of sickness as the employee may have been sick on non-QDs.

Where PIWs are linked and all three WDs have been served in the first PIW, there will be no WDs in any later linked spell of sickness.

If all three WDs have not been served in the first PIW, any remaining WDs must be served at the beginning of the next linked PIW or series of linked PIWs.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases

Where an employee is off sick or self isolation because of coronavirus (COVID-19) from 13 March 2020, payment of SSP will start from the first qualifying day as long as they have formed a PIW.

Where an employee has a letter from their GP or the NHS telling them to stay at home for 12 weeks (known as shielding), SSP entitlement will start from the first qualifying day on or after 16 April 2020 as long as they have formed a PIW.