Statutory sick pay (SSP) is under intense scrutiny as Members of Parliament advocate for significant reforms to address its inadequacy in providing financial support for workers most in need during periods of illness.

The Work and Pensions Committee released a report calling for substantial changes to SSP, highlighting that the current system fails to offer sufficient assistance to those who rely on it.

The report suggests an increase in SSP rates along the lines of Statutory Maternity Pay, aiming to strike a balance between providing essential financial support and avoiding undue burdens on businesses.

According to the Committee’s findings, sickness absence rates have been on the rise, with a staggering 185.6 million working days lost to sickness or injury in 2022 alone.

During their inquiry, it became evident that SSP does not adequately serve those who depend on it, leaving many without any support at all due to eligibility criteria.

SSP changes have not materialised

Despite previous consultations by governments, permanent changes to SSP have not materialised. While recognising the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Committee argues that the time for reform is now, asserting that the immediate costs on employers are no longer a sufficient reason to delay action.

In addition to recommending an increase in SSP rates and expanding eligibility, the report calls for legislative amendments to allow SSP to be paid alongside regular wages, facilitating phased returns to work.

Addressing concerns about the impact on businesses, the report acknowledges the difficulties in predicting the overall effects of SSP reform. However, it emphasises that larger firms would likely be able to absorb the costs, unlike smaller businesses. As a solution, the Committee proposes consulting with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to design a rebate system for SSP.

Also, the report advocates for the establishment of a contributory sick pay scheme for the self-employed, aiming to provide them with comparable support during periods of illness.

“Urgent reform” is required

Commenting on the report, Rt Hon Sir Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, emphasised the urgent need for reform: “Statutory sick pay is failing in its primary purpose to act as a safety net for workers who most need financial help during illness. With the country continuing to face high rates of sickness absence, the Government can no longer afford to keep kicking the can down the road on reform.”

The Committee’s proposals, he added, strike a necessary balance between widening and strengthening support without overly burdening businesses. Timms also stressed the importance of extending support to the self-employed, ensuring they are not left financially vulnerable during periods of sickness.

As calls for reform grow louder, the spotlight remains on the government to take decisive action to overhaul SSP and provide essential support to workers in times of need.

TUC General Secretary, Paul Nowak, said: 

“The Covid-19 pandemic showed that our sick pay system is in desperate need of reform.

“It beggars belief that ministers have done nothing to fix sick pay since.

It’s a disgrace that so many low-paid and insecure workers up and down the country – most of them women – have to go without financial support when sick.

The committee is right that ministers urgently need to remove the lower earnings limit and raise the rate of sick pay.

Wider reform is also needed to remove the three days people must wait before they get any sick pay at all

Working people deserve better.

It’s time for a new deal for workers, like Labour is proposing – which includes stronger sick pay and a ban on zero hours contracts.” 





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.