Sometimes your Personal Assistant (PA) will be unable to come to work because they are sick. This factsheet will help you consider what cover you might need to arrange if your PA is sick as well as providing guidance on paying your PA sick pay.
Before you started receiving direct payments you will have made a plan for emergency care cover so you will have already thought about the different options available to you. You can then use your emergency cover plan to work out which option is the best one for you in your particular circumstances.
Your emergency cover list will vary according to:
- your choices (e.g. if you prefer a friend rather than an agency);
- whether you have enough money in your direct payments account to pay for agency care; and
- whether you have another PA who can cover the PA who is off sick
Example emergency cover plan
A typical emergency cover plan might include some or all of the following options:
- Asking other PAs if they are prepared to work extra hours
- Contacting a PA who has recently resigned but offered to do cover work
- Contacting people who you interviewed and said you would let them know if you had any cover work
- Asking friends or family who have offered to help out unpaid in emergencies
- Contacting an agency
Remember all employees who are to be paid (even emergency cover PAs) should be calculated through your usual payroll method with the payment made to them by cheque or bank transfer (not in cash). Notify your payroll service if you use one to work out wages.
The rules around the sick pay are complex. There are two main types:
- Discretionary sick pay: Your budget does not cover discretionary sick pay and will not likely be agreed by Social Services or Health Service
- Statutory sick pay (SSP): The government has set rules about what amount of sick pay and the length of time the sick pay should be paid to your PA.
Discretionary sick pay
Please consult with your Social Worker before agreeing to pay any discretionary sick pay.
Statutory sick pay
The rules around statutory sick pay depend on how much your PA is earning.
PAs earning more than £123.00 per week
If your PA earns more than the Lower Earnings Limit (in the 2022/2023 tax year this is £123.00 per week) they are entitled to receive statutory sick pay from the fourth consecutive day of sickness (including weekends and bank holidays and days that your PA does not normally work).
In the 2022/2023 tax year statutory sick pay is £99.35 per week and an employee in this category is entitled to receive it for 28 weeks.
If necessary, you (or your payroll) can work out a daily rate of SSP. This is done by dividing the weekly rate by the number of days the PA would normally work in that week. For working out SSP a week runs from Sunday to Saturday.
If you use a payroll service, you should let them know the details of any statutory sick pay when you inform them of your PAs hours.
PAs earning less than £123.00 per week
If your PA earns less than the Lower Earnings Limit (in the 2022/2023 tax year this is £123.00 per week) they are not entitled to any statutory sick pay. You must complete a SSP1 form and give to your PA. Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/255991/ssp1.pdf
Please note: Lower Earnings Limits change each tax year. Details of the current rates that apply are available at
https://www.gov.uk/guidance and /rates-and-thresholds-for-employers-2022-to-2023#tax-thresholds-rates- -codes
More information on statutory sick pay is available from the HMRC website: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payerti/employee/statutory-pay/ssp-overview.htm
When your PA is sick
What should my PA do if they are sick?
All your PAs should follow the procedure below in the event that they are sick:
- they must inform you that they are sick and unable to attend work with as much notice as possible and always before their shift is due to start
- if possible, your PA should give a date on which they will be able to return to work
- if your PA is not able to give a return to work date, they should telephone you each night to update you on this
- if your PA is sick for more than 4 days, they should complete a SC2 (Self Certificate of Sickness) form available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/statutory-sick-pay-employees-statement-of-sickness-sc2
- if they are sick for more than seven calendar days your PA must obtain a medical certificate (a fit note) from their GP
You should keep any sickness certificates in your staff records.
Employer template 4.4(b) Notifying your employer if you are sick contains a summary of the process your PA should follow to notify you if they are sick. You can give your PA a copy of this template so that they have a record of what they should do when they are sick.
You need to keep a record of your PA’s sickness so that you can:
- make sure that your PA receives the right amount of sick pay
- monitor the frequency and length of your PA’s sickness
Employer template 3.7 PA Sickness Record provides an easy to use template to record your PA’s sickness absence.
Employer template 5.7 Return to work form to be completed by the PA after sickness.
Other things to consider
Other issues to consider regarding PA sickness include:
- is your PA sick because they were injured at work? If so, you should consider whether they were they doing their job in the safest possible way and whether you need to file an accident report
- are there any training needs for your PAs to enable them to do their job safely?
- do you provide a thorough induction and regular supervision (i.e. talking to your PAs about any issues they have regarding their job)?
- is your health and safety risk assessment up to date?
- has the PA followed your sickness procedure as outlined in their employment contract?
If not, you should address this. You can do this either by an informal chat (you should however keep notes of this chat) or via a formal disciplinary meeting. See Factsheet 5.1: Managing staff and resolving problems. If necessary, seek advice from Independent Lives.
Frequently asked questions
Q: My PA earns below the Lower Earnings Limit – Should I pay them sick pay?
A: It depends on what your contract (written statement) with them says and whether you have agreed to pay discretionary sick pay.
- if you have agreed to pay discretionary sick pay, then you would pay your PA whatever sick pay amounts are within your contract
- if you have agreed not to pay discretionary sick pay, then you would only pay statutory sick pay (SSP) of £99.35 per week (2022/2023 tax year) for those earning over £123.00 per week (2022/2023 tax year). So, you would not need to provide sick pay for PAs who earn below this amount.
Q: My PA doesn’t earn enough to become eligible for statutory sick pay, but I don’t want them to end up with no pay during that week. What can I do?
A: If you can be flexible about when they work, they could work extra hours when they are back to work if they wish.
Q: I can’t postpone my PA shifts because they help me to bed at night so I need another PA to cover what can I do?
A: You can pay another PA or person you know to cover the period that the sick PA is off, or you can pay for agency care out of the money that you have saved for emergencies. If you use agency care, you will need to ensure there are enough contingency funds as agency care is more costly. You should also inform Social Services as the budget would be affected significantly.
Q: My PA doesn’t earn enough to become eligible for statutory sick pay can’t I just pay them sick pay anyway?
A: If you have not agreed to pay discretionary sick pay in your PA’s contract of employment it is a bad idea to pay it even if your budget has a surplus. This is because it could cause problems regarding ‘custom and practice’ in the future. If you offer sick pay this time, the employee may think this will always happen. If next time you don’t have the money to pay sick pay, or you didn’t want to pay, it could cause difficulties between you and your PA.
Q: My PA earns enough to be paid statutory sick pay how do I pay it?
A: If you manage your own payroll you will need to follow the guidelines set out by HMRC. These should have been provided to you when you registered as an employer.
If you use a payroll service, you should let the payroll service know the dates when your PA was sick when you contact them to let them know about hours worked. The payroll service will make the calculations of what you should pay.
You can no longer reclaim SSP from HMRC, this will need to be funded from your Direct Payment. If you have insufficient funds to cover this, please speak to your Social worker.
Q: My PA earns close to £123.00 per week. Some weeks it is less and some weeks it is more. Will they be eligible for statutory sick pay?
A: In this situation you should talk to your payroll service if you use one or to HMRC if you manage your own payroll.
Q: My PA has a minor illness (e.g. a cold) and wants to come to work. I have a vulnerability to that kind of infection, so I don’t want to risk catching it. Am I forced to let them work?
A: If you really cannot allow them near you for health reasons, you should consider providing alternative work for them. In the past, other employers have decided that it would be OK for their PA to clean a room that they are not in, or do the food shopping, gardening, or admin at their own house. You should consider all reasonable alternative tasks that are legal and safe for your PA to do! Unless your PA is on a zero-hours or casual contract, they must be paid their usual wage even if they do not work.
Q: My PA has a fit note but would like to return to work for me before it expires. What can I do?
A: Your PA can come back to work as soon as they feel able to and with your agreement – this may be before their fit note runs out. The PA does not need to go back to see their GP before coming back to work. A doctor cannot give a fit note stating that you are ‘fit for work’.