The subject of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), and additional contractual sick pay when pregnant can be a little complicated. When you also throw the subject of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) into the mix it is easy to get confused and lose sight of your entitlements. We will now take a look at ways in which you can secure sick pay when pregnant and what you should expect.
The first thing to remember is that your entitlement to SSP and additional contractual sick pay can vary depending upon the type of illness, i.e. is it pregnancy related. This may seem a little unfair on the surface but all may not be as it seems.
Before we look at traditional SSP and additional payments, it is worth reminding ourselves of the options available during COVID for those who are expecting. If you are pregnant there are volunteer networks available that will:-
- Get shopping for you
- Collect prescriptions/medication
- Chat on the phone
As well as the physical pressures of protecting you and your unborn child during COVID, there is also the mental health aspect. This is an area which is often overlooked and misunderstood.
Even though sick pay and maternity pay are two very different entitlements, on occasion they can clash. If we look at statutory maternity pay, and ignore any contractual additions from your employer, the situation is fairly straightforward. You will receive:-
- 90% of your average weekly pay for the first six weeks of your maternity leave
- The lower of £151.20 a week, or 90% of your average weekly pay, for the following 33 weeks
For those who have been furloughed during the COVID pandemic, their average weekly pay is based upon what it was before furlough. There is an eight-week “qualifying period” which will be used to calculate your average weekly pay. Herein lays the potential problem.
If for example you earn £300 a week, you would receive £270 a week maternity pay for the first six weeks. In this situation, you would receive £151.20 a week for the next 33 weeks, as this is the lower of the two figures. The situation becomes a little more complicated if you were forced to take two weeks sick leave during your “qualifying period”. In this scenario, your combined income over the eight-week qualifying period would be:-
2 weeks at £95.85 (SSP) = £191.70
6 weeks at £300 = £1800
Total income = £1991.70
Average weekly income over eight-week period = £248.96
Weekly maternity pay at 90% of weekly average = £224.06
This perfectly illustrates how a bout of sickness during your qualifying period can have a significant impact upon your income for the first six weeks of maternity leave. There is no suggestion that pregnancy or non-pregnancy illness should be ignored during this period, but it is useful to be aware of a potential hit to your income while on maternity leave.
It is no secret that pregnancy can lead to a number of health challenges, from the early days through to the birth and beyond. It is also important to be aware of the different SSP entitlement of pregnancy related and non-pregnancy related illness.
If your illness is connected to your pregnancy:-
- You are eligible to statutory sick pay until four weeks prior to the date your baby is due
- If you are ill within the four week period before your baby is due, it is likely that your maternity leave/maternity pay will start early
When it comes to pregnancy in the workplace, the health and well-being of the employee and the unborn child are paramount. In this scenario, you may need confirmation from your doctor that your illness is pregnancy related.
Sometimes there is a degree of resentment amongst some employers when it comes to pregnancy and time off work. Therefore, you need to be fully aware of your rights and entitlements. The overriding protection ensures that your employer cannot discriminate against you in any way shape or form, because of your pregnancy.
You are also entitled to time off work to attend for example antenatal/doctors’ appointments. It is time to look after yourself and your unborn child!
When looking at sick leave which is not related to your pregnancy, you should be treated like any other employee when it comes to SSP. It is the same for any additional sick pay offered by your employer as part of your written contract. In this situation you are entitled to SSP until:-
- A week before your baby is due
- The date on which your maternity pay begins
If you believe that your employer is treating you differently from other employees, it is important to make them aware of your concerns.
As a consequence of misinformation, errors or simple refusal to pay, on some occasions we have seen pregnant employees struggling to secure their sick pay entitlement. Some of the more common issues include:-
- Your employer refuses to acknowledge you are entitled to sick pay
- A simple refusal to pay for time off work sick
- Miscalculating your SSP entitlement
- Dismissal because of your illness
- Forced resignation because of your illness
As shocking as it may seem, these are some of the more common reasons why employers might refuse to pay SSP to pregnant employees. When we talk about SSP, it is also important to take into account any contractual additional sick pay. So, what can you do?
If your employer is refusing to pay you SSP, despite the fact you are eligible, or discriminating against you in any way because of your pregnancy, you need to take action. The options available include:-
- An informal discussion to make your employer aware of your issues
- The next step would be a formal grievance brought against the company, which they are legally obliged to reply to
- Professional advice should be sought if both informal and formal approaches are rebuffed
- The use of employment tribunals and conciliation services is the next stage, and can often bring about a negotiated settlement
- If all else fails, the final option is to take your employer to court to secure your legal entitlement
Very rarely do employment issues go to court, but it is always an option where your employer is unwilling to recognise a perfectly valid SSP claim. If you are having issues with your employer paying you sick pay when pregnant, it is important to take professional advice.