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Whether you get self-employed sick pay depends on the legal structure of your business. If you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), there are other sickness benefits that you could be entitled to.
In most cases, the self-employed are unable to claim for many of the benefits that employees are entitled to – including statutory sick pay (SSP).
SSP is a payment to employees when they’re off sick for an extended period of time.
As self-employed insurance doesn't offer protection for sickness and ill health, it's worth looking into whether you can claim SSP. Self-employed eligibility for SSP depends on the legal structure of a business.
That’s because if you’re a limited company director you’re an employee of your limited company. This means you’re entitled to SPP at the same rates as your employees.
If you’re a sole trader or in a partnership you can’t claim SSP, but there are other self-employed sickness benefits that you might be able to claim for.
Limited company directors are employees, so they can claim SSP through their business.
The usual SSP rate applies. In 2023-24 the SSP rate is £109.40 a week for up to 28 weeks.
If you’re off work sick as a limited company director, you need to follow the SSP rules. You have to have been off work for four or more days in a row, including non-working days. Days when you’re meant to be working but are off sick are known as ‘qualifying days’.
The first three days you’re sick are known as ‘waiting days’. You’re entitled to SSP from the fourth day you’re off sick.
You need to earn an average salary of at least £123 a week to qualify for SSP.
While sole traders and partners can’t claim SSP, there’s a number of benefits the self-employed might be entitled to.
The one that could cover self-employed illness is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). You might be entitled to weekly ESA payments if you have a longer-term illness or disability that means you’re unable to work.
You also need to be:
While there are different types of ESA that people can claim for, most will claim ‘new style’ ESA. For this, you need to have been an employee or self-employed over the last two to three years. You also need to have two full tax years of National Insurance contributions (or one year of contributions and one year of National Insurance credits).
You can apply for ‘new style’ ESA online at gov.uk or over the phone. You need your:
Citizens Advice says that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) might tell you that you should claim for self-employed Universal Credit too, but you don’t need to do this for ‘new style’ ESA. You shouldn’t feel pressured to apply for benefits you’re not sure about.
Citizens Advice says that if the DWP accepts your claim, you’ll get your first payments a few weeks after your claim. Your payments will usually be backdated by up to three months, to cover time when you had limited capability to work. You won’t be able to claim payments for the first seven days you were unable to work.
When you first claim for ‘new style’ ESA or contribution-based ESA, you’ll usually get:
After three months, the DWP will assess you. Depending on your illness, you’ll be on one of the following rates:
What do you think about self-employed sick pay? Should the self-employed get more support? Let us know in the comments below.
Sam has more than 10 years of experience in writing for financial services. He specialises in illuminating complicated topics, from IR35 to ISAs, and identifying emerging trends that audiences want to know about. Sam spent five years at Simply Business, where he was Senior Copywriter.
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