What sick pay entitlements do part-time employees have?

Please note: this was written in late 2019, before the Coronavirus outbreak. After you've read it, we recommend heading to our Coronavirus and Sick Days page, which tells you how to get the latest information about what's going on.

An update was made on 24/03/2020 to clarify the amount of SSP that's available.

In the UK, part-time workers are protected from being unfavourably treated in comparison to full-time workers.  

Importantly, part-time employees are eligible for sick pay. Read on to find out what they can claim.

What counts as a part-time worker?

There’s no official definition of a part-time worker, but it’s generally someone who works less than 35 hours per week. Any more than that would count as full-time.  

When a part-time employee works overtime, that doesn’t change their definition - if they’re contracted for less than full-time hours, they’re a part-time worker.

If they're not contracted for any hours, but still work when needed, they're categorised as a zero hours contract worker. Guidance for zero hours workers is at the bottom of this article.

Sick pay for part-time workers

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum amount of sick pay employers have to pay when someone’s away with illness. If the worker earns above £118 per week, have been with the company for more than 3 months, and become ill for 4 or more days in a row, they’re eligible. (They must be an actual employee, not just a contractor). The 4 days is reduced to 1 day if they're self-isolating due to COVID-19 (coronavirus).  

The amount of SSP a worker should be paid is £94.25 per week, and they’ll get this for up to 28 weeks.

This is the mandatory minimum, of course - depending on their contract, employees might be eligible for full pay covering each day they’re off. This is known as Occupational Sick Pay (OSP), which usually has a limit on how long it lasts, and will be decided by the company’s own policy. And the employee will have to provide evidence of their sickness (like a note from their doctor) if they're away for 7 days or more.

There are a few more exemptions on eligibility - things like maternity pay and ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) can get in the way. Head over to the Citizens Advice Bureau to see the full list of exemptions.

What other benefits do part-time workers get?

Part-time employees should get be able to be treated the same as full-timers for things like:

  • sick pay, maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, and the pay for that leave
  • pensions
  • holidays
  • training
  • opportunities for promotions, transfers, career breaks and redundancy

The above would usually be applied proportionally (pro rata), depending on how many hours they work each week compared to full-timers.

For things like bonuses, it should be the same. So if an employee works 4 days a week and everyone else works 5, they should get 80% of whatever amount everyone else’s bonus is.

Sick pay entitlements for zero hours contract workers

A zero hours contract is one where the employer doesn't guarantee any particular amount of work to a worker.

However, zero hours contract workers still have statutory employment rights.

This means that if they work enough (with the same employer) to reach the earnings threshold of £118 per week, they are entitled to the same Statutory Sick Pay as above (£94.25 per week). It has to be with the same employer - they can't reach the threshold by combining hours from two different jobs.

Feature Photo by David Mao on Unsplash