Should you get statutory pay or normal pay when you're sick? How to fight for your full salary

Some employers are trying to wiggle out of paying employees their full salary while sick, reducing their income by around 80pc

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Statutory sick pay is just one sixth of the earnings of the average full-time worker

Workers could see their incomes plummet by more than 80pc if they contract coronavirus as statutory sick pay falls far short of average wages. 

Statutory sick pay provides £94.25 per week, paid for up to 28 weeks, which is around one sixth of the average full-time worker's weekly earnings of £585, according to official figures. 

Over a two-week period, the typical worker would lose out on almost £1,000. 

Many employers are more generous and pay workers their full salary during periods of illness. Yet some employees are finding that, despite promises of full sick pay in their contract, their managers are trying to get away with paying the much lower statutory amount. 

A handful have decided to fight for their right to full pay. One Telegraph reader, who wished to remain anonymous, was told by his boss not to come into work after he returned home from a holiday in Italy.

At the time, there had been no reported cases of coronavirus in the area and no travel warnings from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). 

He was told he would only be entitled to statutory sick pay during the two-week quarantine imposed by his employer, despite his contract stating he should receive his full salary during periods of illness. 

He insisted that the terms of his contract should be respected. His employer refused at first but eventually agreed to pay him his full salary.

“I was lucky: I knew what I was entitled to, so knew to ask for it. I think a lot of other people wouldn’t be aware. I earn almost £500 a week, so having to live off less than £100 a week instead would be a pay cut of around 80pc. I couldn’t afford that,” he said. 

Rubel Bashir, an employment lawyer at law firm Slater and Gordon, advised anyone being told they will only be paid statutory rates to do the same and familiarise themselves with the terms of their contract. 

He said many people would be on contracts that entitled them to more than the statutory amount of sick pay and if that is the case, the employer must honour this.

“They cannot change the terms of your employment without your agreement and doing so would amount to a breach of your contract,” Mr Bashir said. 

John Goss, a barrister at 5 Essex Court, the chambers, said that if an employer attempted to pay less than the agreed rate of sick pay, the worker could bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal.

“It is important that employees make sure their employer knows they are unhappy with their proposal, since they might otherwise be treated as having waived the right to contractual sick pay,” he said.

Mr Goss added that the situation may be different for those ordered by the Government to self-isolate without actually being sick. 

Has your employer tried to change the terms of your contract since the coronavirus outbreak? We'd like to hear from you. Email [email protected]