Survey – small businesses, sickness absence and the recovery of SSP

New research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has shown that sickness and absence cost small businesses on average £1,500 in the last 12 months (although it cost 9% of firms £5,000, or more). The ‘Voice of Small Business’ annual survey from the FSB also shows that small businesses lose on average 2.4 days to sickness absence per employee each year, which is actually positive when compared to the national average of 7.7 days per employee.

However, whilst the smallest businesses rarely suffer from long-term sickness absence, it has a big impact and the costs can be high when they do. In response, the Forum for Private Business (FPB) is calling on the Government to introduce a small employer’s relief for the recovery of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which would be available to all firms with a bill for annual national insurance contributions of less than £45,000.

Currently the percentage threshold (PT) scheme is used to calculate how much SSP employers can claim back. The PT scheme means that many small firms either have to spend time doing complicated calculations, or they have to spend money on buying in help.

40% of small business employers who took part in the survey claimed that dealing with holiday entitlement, and sickness and absence is one of the most difficult aspects of employment law. According to the FSB, the process for the recovery of SSP needs to be simplified so that small firms can reclaim the costs more easily. This is of particular importance in the difficult economic climate.

According to John Walker, national chairman of the FSB:

Small firms act like a tight knit family and value the contribution their staff bring to the business. Research shows that staff in small firms are often more committed and loyal. But employees do have time off sick and sickness absence is one of the most complex pieces of employment law bosses’ have to deal with.”

The issue of employee sickness absence will be focused on comprehensively in the upcoming independent review of workplace sickness absence from Dame Carol Black (UK National Director for Health and Work ) and David Frost (Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce), which is due to be published in the coming months. Free, confidential support is also available for employers/managers who are facing employee sickness absence issues from the Health for Work Adviceline (0800 0 77 88 44).

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