To pay or not to pay sick pay…It’s a contentious issue for agencies and one that we discussed recently at one of our events.

Our resident HR specialist Sarah May dives deep on facts you need to know regarding sick pay.

The facts

From the fourth day of sickness, an employee is entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for up to 28 weeks. Currently paid at the rate of £99.35 per week.

That can be impossible to live off. So many employers will look to top up and support their teams in times of sickness by paying Company Sick Pay.

But how do you come up with an approach that’s financially viable? For both your agency to ensure it’s financially viable, and your team to ensure they feel supported.

Recently, we were joined by AC members who shared their very different approaches with us.

Staff abusing company sick pay

One agency founder has been running his agency for over 17 years.  In the early days they paid Company Sick Pay. Although combined with a culture of work hard, party harder, he found that his team were taking on average 2 days a month off sick – paid. That equated to one tenth of a salary!

One day he had an epiphany. He nipped the behaviour in the bud and the Company Sick Pay policy along with it.  He wasn’t completely mean – he increased the holiday entitlement by 2 days per year and was flexible if people wanted to use this if feeling unwell.

As a result: 9 out of 10 of his team didn’t take a sick day for the rest of the year.

He told us that having a clear, upfront culture, with strict boundaries gave his team the certainty that they needed with no impact on employee turnover.

Working while unwell

Does a “no Company Sick Pay” stance encourage presenteeism? Do you want people turning up to work when they really should have stayed in bed?

Another agency founder says that it prompted people to curb their behaviour, that everyone enjoys knowing where they stand. That he would step in and support any of his team with any long-term health issue. However purely on a discretionary basis.

Unlimited sick pay?

In contrast, we also heard from another agency owner who has an unlimited Company sick pay policy. As founders, their stance was to ask themselves how they would like to be treated themselves. It wasn’t necessarily a proactive strategy. They don’t advertise the fact they pay company sick pay. However, it was in answer to “what is fair for us?”

Having a flexible approach has worked. Making adjustments for medical conditions or when life gets in the way. Trust is an incredibly important factor here. However, it doesn’t come without its conditions.

The agency still monitors sick days and asks employees to attend an occupational health assessment if needed for anything long term. Whilst there could be a danger that people use the policy to extend a break or take additional time off, they prefer to take a more proactive approach to letting people take the time they need to recover so that they can be their best selves at work.

As a result, both agencies report enjoying low turnover rates and low sickness absence too.

Our thoughts

What was special about hearing from these two agency founders was that despite very different approaches, there was also some common ground. Both came from a perspective of wanting to protect their business and retain their team. Both policies let their teams know where they stood. Surprisingly both policies meant that they had low retention and very few sick days taken either paid or unpaid. 

Here at The Agency Collective, we recommend taking an approach that is right for your agency. Whether you choose to only offer SSP, offer unlimited or somewhere in-between. We recommend you have a policy or statement in your handbook that sets out what your approach to sick pay is.

Having a written policy ensures consistency and fairness for all and will avoid any grievances or claims of unfairness or discrimination.

If you have a remote working practice, it’s even more important to ensure people don’t feel they should be working when they are not fit to. Likewise, having that flexibility means that people feel they can recover quicker and return to work.

Employees stay where they feel happy and supported. Having a supportive and open culture will ensure that you have a spirit of openness. That will allow you to be able to support your teams – whatever your sick pay policy says.

If you would like to talk through your sick pay policy, our agency community HR expert, Sarah Hoyle is always happy to chat: sarah@theagencycollective.co.uk

Did you enjoy this blog? Then you’ll definitely enjoy this one: Remote Working: How to Create a Great Remote Working Culture

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