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Contributed by ACCA, in their own words

The Statutory Sick Pay Percentage Threshold Scheme will be replaced by the Health and Work Service.

Under current legislation the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) provided a measure of compensation for employers faced with high levels of sick absence. An employer was entitled to recover some of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) actually paid to their employees if the total amount of SSP paid in a tax month was greater than a set percentage of their gross class 1 national insurance contributions (employers’ and employees’) liability for that tax month.

On 6 April the SSP PTS ceases to exist and will be replaced later in 2014 by the Health and Work Service (HWS), leaving employers to bear the full cost.

Employers providing medical treatments recommended by HWS or an employer-arranged occupational health service will find that this employee benefit is exempt from tax up to £500 a year per employee.

It has also been announced that a benefit of the scheme for employers is that SSP records will not need to be kept. However, it is important to remember that employers will still be required to keep records of employee absence. 

Return to Work Plan

HWS is built around the premise of helping employers manage sickness absence better and helping employees back to work more quickly. One of the key elements is a Return to Work Plan (RtWP) which will include recommendations to help the employee return to work.

There are two elements of the service, described as: 

  • Advice: anyone – including employers, employees and GPs – will be able to seek advice via a phoneline and website to help identify issues that may be affecting employees or preventing a return to work. HWS will provide information on possible interventions, adjustments or self-help measures that may support those individuals
  • Assessment: once the employee has reached, or is expected to reach, four weeks of sickness absence, they can be referred by their GP or employer for an assessment by an occupational health professional. This will identify any measures, steps or interventions that would facilitate a return to work. Recommendations for these will be included within a return-to-work plan that will, with the employee’s consent, be shared with their employer and GP. 

Losses and gains

It will be interesting to see how the scheme works for employers, given that they will lose the compensation payment but can offer a tax-free benefit to employees, have access to an advice line and can, if allowed by their employees, see the RtWP.