Introduction to this document

Letter withdrawing SSP

Use our letter where you’re not going to pay SSP either because of the employee’s failure to comply with your sickness absence reporting requirements or you have good reason to doubt that the employee’s incapacity is genuine. If your employee disagrees with you, they’re entitled to seek a formal decision on their entitlement from HMRC.

SSP entitlement

Normally, when an employee is off sick for at least four days in a row and they meet the eligibility conditions, you will start paying SSP from the fourth “qualifying day”. The first three qualifying days are “waiting days” and you don’t have to pay SSP on these days, unless they’ve been off sick and getting SSP within the last eight weeks. There are, however, a couple of circumstances where you can withhold SSP from an employee.

Sickness absence reporting

The first is where your employee has failed to comply with your sickness absence reporting requirements. Your employee must tell you they’re sick within a time limit that you can set (or within seven days if you haven’t set one), but for SSP entitlement purposes you can’t insist they tell you in person. You don’t have to pay SSP for any days your employee was late in telling you, unless there’s a good reason for their delay. Note. This relates to reporting sickness absence, not providing evidence to support it, such as a fit note. After seven days off sick you can ask your employee for a fit note from their doctor but you can’t withhold SSP if they’re late sending you the fit note. Our Letter Withdrawing SSP sets out the dates when you cannot pay SSP and gives one of two alternative reasons as a failure to comply with your sickness absence reporting procedures.

Non-genuine illness

The other main time when you might decide to stop paying SSP is if you have sufficient evidence to doubt that the employee’s incapacity is genuine. Be careful of your facts here and don’t just rely on gossip. If the employee has two jobs, it might be quite conceivable that they’re still capable of performing the other job role whilst being off sick from your work. Likewise, being sick doesn’t always prevent an employee from going to the gym or doing their shopping. Much will turn on the nature of their incapacity and the job role they perform for you. If you do decide to stop paying SSP to your employee, they’re entitled to a written statement from you explaining your decision and for this you can again use our letter. It provides that the other alternative reason for non-payment of SSP is that you’ve good reason to doubt the genuineness of their illness. We’ve kept this statement broad but if you’ve gathered specific factual evidence, you can cite it in your letter.

Formal decision

Where you refuse to pay SSP to an employee and they disagree with your decision, they can seek a formal decision on their entitlement to SSP from HMRC. They must phone the HMRC’s Statutory Payment Disputes Team, so our letter provides this information. Be aware that HMRC has the power to impose a civil penalty on you of up to £3,000 for a refusal or failure to pay SSP where it’s properly due, so don’t take the decision not to pay lightly.