The government has launched a consultation on whether to extend eligibility to statutory sick pay to those earning below the current threshold. Currently, employees must earn the equivalent of 14 hours on the minimum wage or more to qualify.
Commenting on the consultation, Mishcon de Reya Employment Lawyer Åsa Waring said:
"While press coverage has focussed mainly on the proposed lowering of the threshold for eligibility for SSP to benefit some of the lowest paid workers, there are a number of other proposals in today's government consultation that will be of interest to employers.
"These include introducing a right to request "work(place) modifications" for employees not covered under the duty to make reasonable adjustments. Many employers already support and make adjustments for both employees with disabilities as well as those with other physical and mental health conditions, including to facilitate a return to work following sick leave. Apart from it being good practice, it is often a challenge for employers to determine whether an employee meets the definition of disability (and to whom the employer therefore owes the statutory duty to make reasonable adjustments) and a consistent approach is easier to manage in many cases. The proposals do not address this challenge but rather introduce a new procedure for those employees who do not meet the disability definition but who do meet other criteria - yet to be determined. Under these proposals, the employee can make a request for modifications, and the employer can refuse them on business grounds, similar to the current right to make a request for flexible working. This is in contrast to the duty to make reasonable adjustments which is not dependent on the employee making the first move, and which is an absolute duty, as long as the adjustment is reasonable. While not addressing the challenge of differentiating between the two, the consultation states that: "The 2 protections should align as far as possible, without causing confusion between the 2…". It remains to be seen how this can be achieved.
"Other proposals likely to catch the eye of employers include the introduction of statutory guidance that would prompt employers to demonstrate that they have taken early, sustained and proportionate action to support employees with health conditions to stay in work or return to work from sick leave; improved access to occupational health advice, particularly for small and medium sized employers; and more flexible SSP provisions.
"Most of the proposals, open for consultation until 7 October 2019, formalise what many employers already do in practice, but for others the emphasis on guidance for employers as well as support for employees may help to provide benefits for both."
Read more about this development on BBC News.