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1979-1987 : Mr Major’s Written Parliamentary Answer on the Statutory Sick Pay Scheme

Below is the text of Mr Major's written Parliamentary Answer on the Statutory Sick Pay Scheme on 19th May 1986.


Mr. Janner Asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans his Department has to review the operation of the statutory sick pay scheme since April 1983 in the light of the criticisms contained in the new report published by the Disability Alliance, ERA, Leicester rights centre and the Leicester city council low pay campaign, copies of which were sent to him; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Major [pursuant to his reply, 9 May 1986, c. 290]: We have kept the operation of the statutory sick pay scheme under continuous review since its introduction in April 1983 and devoted considerable effort to making employers familiar with it. In the first year of the scheme, 85 per cent. of all employers were visited by DHSS inspectors and SSP payments checked. The overall error rate was 15 per cent. but this will have improved as more employers have become accustomed to the rules. Since then we have concentrated our checks on those employers whom we believe to be most likely to make mistakes, either because of our findings on the first phase of visits or because the employer may be less familiar with the SSP arrangements. The error rate is correspondingly high (28 per cent.), made up of 16 per cent. overpayments and 12 per cent. underpayments. These mistakes are discussed with the employer to ensure that he understands the rules for the future. In 1985 we checked 116,000 employee records in this way. We also maintain a random sample check of employers generally. Our monitoring generally is at a level recommended by the Public Accounts Committee.

We expect and wish to achieve lower error rates. We shall keep the operation of the scheme under close scrutiny and seek continued improvement, which I believe will come as all employers gain more experience of SSP. The report to which the hon. and learned Member refers concludes that the transfer of sickness payments to employers has been a failure, but I cannot accept this. The vast majority of employers take their responsibilities in this area seriously. Most of their mistakes have been technical - for example, failure to apply the rule about waiting days - and I am sure that we are right to concentrate our checking efforts on the minority of employers where mistakes persist at an unduly high rate.