Could two million of the UK’s lowest paid workers soon be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay?

Today it has been announced that millions of the UK’s low-paid workers could become eligible for Statutory Sick Pay for the first time under new government proposals.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced that they would be consulting on new policies which it claims, could help businesses support and retain employees with disabilities and health conditions, it is proposed that this would be achieved by lowering the eligibility threshold for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

As with any changes to Government policies, this is met with both pros and cons, and today there has been plenty of debate following the announcement with multiple differing perspectives, including a rather interesting talking point on Radio Two!

An obvious positive point is that those who need the support the most will have access to the same levels of support that is given to those who are within the threshold, which many argue is the right thing to do and is a great step forward for equal opportunities, but there is concern that these are simply an attempts to bring idealisms into a real world which won’t work in practice. For example, one of the downsides, is that this could be seen as yet another Government idea which is thrown onto the shoulders of businesses to deal with and fund whilst many are already struggling to stay afloat.

As an HR consultant, I can assure you that I have seen and heard it all, and whilst I am not in a position to question the validity of people’s absences, there have been more occasions than I care to mention, of employees who do play the game and take advantage of existing SSP and company sick pay schemes. This may be feasible in larger businesses, but for smaller ones, the impacts can be much more significant.

In these proposals, I would have liked to have seen greater consideration to smaller businesses, who in effect, would be made to pay SSP to absent employees and cover the cost of hiring an additional employee to cover the work. In the Radio Two debate, one caller advised that he runs a small business and both of his employees are off on long term sick which is threatening his overall business. Therefore, as with people, I don’t see a one sized fits all proposal being a solution or suitable fix to the problem.

On the other hand the proposals do include an introduction of a sick pay rebate for smaller businesses, however, it is unclear on how this would work and it could be argued that this move could increase the cost of sickness absence to thousands of businesses.

One of the objectives of this review, is for organisations to be more proactive when it comes to absence management by taking steps earlier in the process, to effectively manage employees who suffer with health conditions or those who may be experiencing a period of sickness absence. This is a point that may be welcomed by employers, but this would require support via changes to legal guidelines.

What are your thoughts on these proposed changes? Are they a good thing, or do you think the impacts are wider than initially thought? Let me know what you think and pop your comments in the box below.

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