As an employee, you are entitled to take time off from work if you are unwell. Your employer does not have to pay you, but you will usually be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay. Your contract will specify if you will be paid more than this by your employer.

What sick leave am I entitled to?

If you are ill and unable to attend work, you can take time off. For the first 7 days of absence, you can ‘self-certify’, meaning you can simply tell your employer that you have been unwell. This should be done in the way specified by your employer, for example, by letter or email.

If this extends beyond 7 days, you will need to see a doctor to obtain a fit note, also referred to as a sick note. Your employer may also be prepared to accept a note from an Allied Health Professional such as a physiotherapist or occupational therapist instead.

The note will state either that you are ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work’. If you ‘may be fit for work’, your employer should speak to you about whether changes can be made to your job to enable you to attend work. This could be by changing your role or adapting what you do.

Can sick leave be denied?

Your employer cannot stop you taking sick leave, however if you do not comply with their requirements for reporting this then you could be breaching the terms of your employment contract. This could result in a disciplinary procedure against you.

If you do not notify your employer that you are on sick leave, you will not be legally entitled to receive sick pay.

What pay am I entitled to if I am off sick?

There are two types of sick pay:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is the minimum amount you must receive by law; and
  • Company sick pay, which may be referred to as contractual sick pay, which is any extra sick pay that your employer may give you and which is specified in your employment contract.

Statutory Sick Pay is payable for a maximum of 28 weeks per year.

I have no contract of employment, what are my rights?

When sick leave runs out

If you have a long-term illness then you may be able to make a claim for Employment and Support Allowance from the government to cover you for when your sick pay runs out.

Your employer can legally dismiss you while you are on sick leave, but they must follow the correct procedure in doing so and they will have to show that the dismissal is just and fair. This means that before proceeding to a dismissal, they will have to look at any other options, such as adjusting your role to accommodate you or altering your hours.

If you believe your employer may be considering ending your employment because of ill-health, you should seek legal advice. If they have not dealt fairly with your illness, you may be entitled to bring a claim against them if they dismiss you.

See our article, can you be fired for being sick?

Sickness rights when pregnant

If you are off sick while you are pregnant and you receive Statutory Sick Pay, it could reduce the amount of Statutory Maternity Pay that you receive, because this is calculated with reference to the pay you received during an 8-week period before you go on maternity leave.

If you are ill because of your pregnancy, you can claim Statutory Sick Pay until 4 weeks before your due date. You will then switch to maternity leave and receive maternity pay.

If your illness is not pregnancy-related, you are entitled to sick pay in the ordinary way up until the week before your due date or alternatively the date on which you have asked for your maternity pay to start.

You should not be treated less well than anyone else who is not pregnant. If you believe that you are being discriminated against because of your pregnancy, you are entitled to take action to stop this and potentially to bring a claim against your employer.

Protecting your sickness absence rights

We can help protect your sickness absence rights. We can ensure that you are paid properly, treated fairly and not discriminated against.

Our expert employment solicitors will be there every step of the way, acting in whatever capacity you wish, including, if necessary, at a tribunal.

Contact us for an initial chat with our helpful team.

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