Priority and Payment Conflict:

If an employee is eligible for both SMP and SSP (for example, if they fall ill during maternity leave), SMP takes precedence over SSP. This means that during the period when both could theoretically be paid, only SMP will be paid.

This is because the law prioritises maternity benefits to ensure financial support for new mothers over sickness benefits.

Higher Financial Support:

SMP generally provides higher financial support than SSP. The initial 6 weeks of SMP at 90% of the employee’s AWE is usually significantly higher than the flat rate of SSP.

Even the subsequent weeks of SMP (paid at the lower standard rate) often exceed the SSP rate.

Longer Duration:

SMP is paid for a longer period (up to 39 weeks) compared to SSP (up to 28 weeks).

Practical Implications:

For payroll processing, this means:

Prioritisation - Payroll systems must prioritize SMP payments over SSP if an employee is eligible for both.

Employee Communication - Employers should clearly communicate to employees that SMP will override SSP during maternity leave to avoid confusion.

System Configuration - Payroll software should be configured to handle these rules correctly to ensure compliance with statutory requirements.

In summary, SMP "trumps" SSP because it provides greater financial support, has a longer duration, and is given priority by law in cases where an employee qualifies for both types of pay. If your employee returns to work during their OML/AML and falls sick, SMP will be due to be paid.

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Payroll Manager at Queen's University Belfast

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