Guidance on sick pay

The guidance provided below offers advice and practical tools on paying employees during sick leave.

About the University's sick pay scheme

If an employee is on sickness leave, s/he is entitled to payment at the rate of full salary in the first instance (which will be inclusive of any payable Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)) for such period as his or her department may determine, noting the guidelines given below, which should be adhered to at the minimum. A department has discretion to pay at the rate of part salary for a further period, which should not normally affect payment of SSP if an employee has remaining entitlement. In applying discretion to pay at the rate of part salary for a further period, departments have been asked to note that the following guidelines for pay during sick leave apply.

Service (*)

Full pay (*)

Half pay (*)


First three months


2 weeks


2 weeks

Remaining nine months of first year

2 months

2 months

Second and third years

3 months

3 months

Fourth and fifth years

5 months

5 months

After fifth year

6 months

6 months


(*) Inclusive of any university sick pay given in the 12 months preceding the start of the latest period of such leave.

In cases of extended sick leave it is possible that payment of full or half pay under the University's own sick pay scheme may be exhausted, but SSP continue to be due (primarily affecting employees on extended sick leave with less than 4 years' continuous service). Employees should be informed if this is about to happen. See also 'Recording and monitoring absence'.

If an employee is excluded from the SSP scheme, the University will deduct the amount of any short-term incapacity benefit (soon to be Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)) payable by the Jobcentre Plus from any salary paid. No deductions shall be made from payments at half pay under the University's own sick pay arrangements, except that where the total amount of half pay plus incapacity benefit or other allowances exceeds full pay, a deduction will be made of an amount equivalent to the excess. Payroll should be notified in advance of any such cases.

The sick pay calculator can be found on the right-hand side of this page.

Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is paid to eligible employees, regardless of the length of service (but subject to certain exclusions), for up to 28 weeks of sickness in any period of incapacity for work (PIW). This payment is made as part of the University's sick pay scheme, from the first qualifying day.

As per HMRC rules, in order to qualify for SSP, an employee must meet the criteria below:

  • the employee must have commenced employment with the University;
  • sickness days must make up part of a 'period of incapacity for work' (4 or more days);
  • SSP can only be paid for an employee’s normal working days;
  • normal earnings must be above the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) for National Insurance contributions (NICs);
  • the employee cannot have already exhausted their entitlement to SSP for the PIW - or for a series of linked PIWs (28 weeks);
  • notification of sickness absence must be given within the set time-period (a maximum seven days from the first day of absence). Under university procedures the individual must notify the department on the first day of sickness, and exceptions to this may only be made in exceptional circumstances;
  • if asked, the employee must provide proof of their incapacity.

If the employee does not meet the conditions above, they must be notified and sent the SSP1 form by Payroll to enable them to claim any state benefit to which they may be entitled to.

SSP payments will be made as part of salary and will therefore be liable to tax and national insurance deductions. Employees in receipt of the University’s sick pay or sickness state benefit should not carry out any work duties during this period.

During a period of a phased return to work of an employee, payment of SSP will continue to be made for days not worked (if the entitlement remains to do so).

Qualifying days for SSP

SSP is only payable if there's a period of incapacity for work (four or more days). An employee's qualifying days for SSP will normally be Monday to Friday, or the actual days worked if less than five days. Employees’ working patterns should be recorded correctly in CoreHR to ensure an accurate payment of SSP.

Linking letters

Jobcentre Plus will issue “linking letters” to individuals who have recently received Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) benefit. In order for the correct SSP amounts to be paid, any new employees who go on sick leave for more than four consecutive days within the first 12 weeks of employment should be asked if they had been given a linking letter. This will need to be passed on to the Payroll Office, and a copy to be kept on the individual’s file.

You can check with your local Jobcentre Plus to see if an employee is entitled to receive ESA or from October 2013 Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as certain details can be disclosed to an employer without the employee’s consent.

Further information on linking letters can be found here.

Salary adjustments

Once entitlement to full pay has run out, an employee’s salary will need to be adjusted by the department in CoreHR. Before reducing the employee's pay to half rate, please ensure to contact your Payroll Officer in advance via email, to warn of this impending change. In the first instance the salary is reduced to half pay, and in some cases the employee’s pay will be reduced to ‘nil’ thereafter. Entitlement to rates of pay during sickness leave is linked to the employee’s length of service; the details of the University Sick Pay scheme can be found here.

Payroll should ideally be notified prior to the 23rd week of the employee's absence, in cases where the employee is likely to exceed absence of 28 weeks, at which point their entitlement to SSP will cease. Payroll will then issue the SSP1 form to the affected employee to enable the employee to apply for state benefit.

Periods of absence of more than four days' duration which occur within 8 weeks of each other can be 'linked' (for SSP purposes) and need to be taken into account when reporting absences that exceed four months. See section on ‘Linking letters’.

Please see information on phased return to work programmes for further details on making salary payments.

QRG: CH7 Change: Sick leave (204kb)

Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa holders

Where the staff member is a Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa holder and their sickness absence involves a period of reduced pay, or unpaid, leave it will need to be reported to the Home Office. Please refer to the Staff Immigration Team webpage for the latest guidance - www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/permits/employresp/#d.en.51905. For further information contact the Staff Immigration Team.

Withholding of sick pay

The University may withhold sick pay if it has good reason to believe that an employee's illness is not genuine, or if an employee fails to comply with the policy’s procedure on notification of sickness absence. Advice from the relevant HRBP and the UOHS should be sought. In such cases, the employee will be informed of this in writing and a SSP1 form should be issued to them, entitling them to make a claim for state benefit. If an employee disagrees with this decision, s/he can raise the matter informally with the departmental administrator. The employee may progress the matter through the grievance procedure if necessary.

Third party claims for absence caused by an accident

If a member of staff is absent from work as the result of an accident or injury that happens whilst he or she is not at work, and that is caused by another person (e.g. a car accident), damages for loss of earnings may be recoverable from the person who caused the accident, who is referred to as the ‘third party’.

In this case, in order to enable the University to reclaim any sick pay which can be recovered from the third party, the following special arrangements will apply:

  • The University will not pay sick pay as of right, but will advance to the member of staff a sum not exceeding his or her normal entitlement to sick pay, on the understanding that, if he or she is awarded compensation for loss of earnings, he or she must refund to the University any such compensation received, subject to a maximum of the total sum advanced during the period of absence.
  • If such a refund is made, the period covered by the refund will be disregarded for the purpose of calculating entitlement to sick leave payments for any period of sickness. However, where no damages for loss of earnings are actually recovered, the University will waive its right to seek a refund and the period concerned will be regarded as normal sick leave.
  • The requirement to refund advances from damages received does not extend to any non-salary related compensatory awards, nor to payments made directly by an insurance company without reference to third party recovery.