Statutory sick pay changes – what do they mean for you?

4 min Read Published: 23 Feb 2022

Statutory stick pay changes - what do they mean for you?Boris Johnson addressed the House of Commons on Monday 21st February to update guidance around the government's Covid rules in order to transition towards 'living with covid'. We look at what the changes in relation to statutory sick pay and self-isolation support payment for low-income work. We also explain other solutions that are available to provide safeguards for lost income due to Covid.

What are the changes to sick pay benefits for Covid?

The prime minister announced a change in the Covid rules governing people in England with a view to moving towards 'living with covid'. Some of the changes come into effect this week, on 23rd of February and others will take effect on the 13th of March and the 1st of April.

Covid rules changes from Feb 23, 2022

  • £500 self-isolation support payment for low-income workers scrapped

Covid rule changes from March 13, 2022

  • Statutory sick pay for Covid isolation to move from being paid from day 1 to day 4

How the sick pay changes affect you

Statutory sick pay (SSP) had been improved in response to the Covid pandemic to cover Covid isolation from Day 1 instead of the usual Day 4 for other types of sickness absence but it will return to Day 4 for Covid isolation claims after the 13th of March. With public health guidance that those with positive Covid results should remain at home for 5 days, SSP may not provide much benefit to replace lost income in such circumstances - especially if you are unable to return to work for longer periods due to symptoms.

SSP which pays £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks is low compared with most other European countries but offers important support to those with little or no savings to fall back on if their income stops when they are unable to work. Additionally, low-income workers will no longer receive the £500 support payment if they were required to self-isolate from February 23rd potentially leaving those with fewer means to meet their financial commitments if they test positive for Covid and cannot work.

Without an employers' sick pay scheme which is rare in the private sector, millions of people already struggle to survive on £96.35 per week of SSP when the average full-time wage of a UK employee was £611 per week in April 2021*. There has also been much criticism from trade unions that the lower earnings level threshold, £120 per week, currently used to qualify for SSP excludes approximately 2 million people from receiving this benefit.

*source www.ons.gov.uk

One way to boost your potential sick pay

Loss of income is a concern for many and sick pay insurance, otherwise known as income protection insurance, can be used to minimise the hardship it can cause. You can insure up to 60% of your gross income and this can be paid to you after your chosen waiting period, which can be as short as one week, if you are unable to work. This could be as a result Covid symptoms. £96.35 of weekly statutory sick pay is usually paid in addition to your benefit from such insurances which means you may be better supported to meet your financial commitments. Low-cost policies, from as little as £5 month, can cover up to 5 years' absence from work per claim offering a longer period of support than the 28 week limit to SSP while more comprehensive insurance plans would continue to pay you an income until you were either able to return to work or reach retirement age.

To learn more about protecting your income read our article, "Income protection - do you really need it?"