SSP for a face-lift?

Many companies offer enhanced sick pay for a fixed number of days’ sick leave per year. As this is a contractual rather than a statutory provision, it is up to each individual employer to set out in the contract or staff handbook whether such pay is available for absences for elective or cosmetic surgery or not.

However, what about the situation where an employee has elective surgery and is subsequently off work recuperating where there is no contractual entitlement to enhanced sick pay and no policy about this in the handbook? Is this employee still entitled to statutory sick pay (“SSP”)? It’s an interesting question and one which has not yet been challenged in the employment tribunal but I think that it is likely that entitlement to SSP would remain provided the employee was genuinely unfit for work.

For this reason, even if employers put an “elective surgery” provision in their staff handbooks requiring all employees who wish to undergo elective or cosmetic surgery to book the time off (including any anticipated recuperation time) as holiday, such a provision may be difficult to enforce as being unfit for work automatically entitles the employee to SSP provided the entitlement has kicked in. If automatically entitled to SSP, arguably it would be unfair for an employer to discipline an employee for undergoing such surgery without booking the time off as holiday. An interesting conundrum and I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has had to deal with this situation in practice.