Employers should be as clear as possible with employees about their entitlement to sick pay and health insurance benefits from day one, according to employment lawyers.

Melanie Stancliffe, partner at law firm Cripps Pemberton Greenish, was commenting on findings from a Grid survey which shows 50% of UK Employers are failing to comply with legislation introduced last year on sick pay.

The Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1378) require employers to tell their staff, on day one of employment or before, what their entitlement to any sick pay is.

But Stancliffe stated that while there was little publicity about the new rules last year as firms contended with the pandemic and lockdown, those who fail to comply face fines of £300 plus £60 for each day they do not provide the information.

“Even the £3,000 fine for the non-payment of sick pay doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds,” she said.

“Best practice is that employment terms should be set out before an employee joins. To avoid liability for failing to provide the detailed terms, businesses should definitely set out the key terms of employees and workers, like sick pay, on their first day.”

And while Medical insurance benefits are not usually available until probationary periods have been passed, Stancliffe adds it would be right for the business to mention the employee will receive cover at a later date if they satisfy the insurer’s rules.

“One of the advantages of private medical insurance schemes, are the accessibility to employee assistance programs to support staff with mental health issues, quick medical treatment and a swift return to work – benefits that are only available if the staff are made aware of them.”

More information required

Commenting further on the requirements, Jacqueline McDermott, a partner at Keystone Law, said it compels all new employees starting on or after 6 April 2020 to be provided with a written Section 1 (S1) statement including certain particulars on day one of employment.

Previously the statement had to be provided within two months of commencing employment.

“The S1 statement includes information that was not previously required to be given to the employee in writing, including details of any benefits they may receive, training requirements and types of paid time off.

“The S1 statement can refer the employee to a reasonably accessible document where some of the information can be obtained, such as entitlement to sick pay. Details of which can be included in a staff handbook.

“For employees who started work before 6 April 2020, the requirement to provide the information arises if an employee requests an S1 statement, in which case it must be provided within one month of starting employment. In my experience this is very rare or if there is any change in any of the particulars that would have been given in the S1 statement.

McDermott added that in her experience many employers were simply unaware of the changes or they did not have the resources to deal with them.

“This is particularly the case for SMEs. Many are aware there have been changes but do not know what they are and haven’t got round to dealing with it,” she continued.

“Many SMEs do not have a dedicated HR function and may have appointed someone responsible for HR matters but who may not be an HR professional. The issue may only hit their radar when they take on a new employee and seek advice, but not all do.”