Can You Take Sick Leave on Probation? What to do if You Are Off Work Ill

When you’re on probation in a new role, you will be understandably keen to make a good impression. But what if you need to take sick leave during your probation period? Don’t worry, our guide will look at what to do if you are off ill, what your employer is likely to do, and your rights to sick pay.

Taking Sick Leave During Probation

Sickness is part of life, and can happen at any time. Employers might take a dim view of excessive absences for reasons they don’t think are genuine.

However, most will realise that you can’t help getting sick, and will take a practical approach.

So what should you do when calling in sick during your probation period to make the best possible impression?

How to Deal with Calling in Sick on Probation

First of all, don’t worry. You might even be wondering if you are allowed to call in sick at all during probation. Remember, if you are too ill to work properly you may end up performing poorly by making mistakes or not keeping up.

This could reflect badly on your probation review just as much as taking too many days off.

When you’re calling in sick, make sure you:-

Follow Company Policies on Sick Leave

If your staff handbook advises you to call your line manager every day you are off, do so. It’s advisable to follow sickness procedure to the letter you’ll demonstrate your ability to stick to procedure in your workplace.

If you are supposed to call in but instead drop your manager an email on the first day, and then don’t keep in touch it might reflect poorly. Following company procedures to the letter is important when you are trying to pass probation.

Communicate Clearly With Your Manager

You are not obligated to provide detailed medical information about your reason for being off. However, make sure you are not vague so you don’t give the impression your reason is not genuine.

If your absence is for a very personal or embarrassing reason, you can always say you have a tummy bug. If you are able, do also let your manager know when you think you will return to work.

Good communication will help your manager understand your sickness is authentic.

Our general guide gives detailed suggestions on how to call in sick to work. The guide offers sample text and examples of how to write to your manager, and approach phone calls.

Sick Pay During Your Probation Period

The financial impact of taking sick leave is a concern when on a probationary contract. It’s not unusual for a reduced range of benefits to be offered to employees during the probation period. However, this will not impact your statutory right to sick pay.

Company Sick Pay

Company sick pay is an enhanced payment often covering an employees full wage during time off sick. This type of payment is at the employers discretion. Some workplaces offer a certain number of sick days each year fully paid.

To work out what sick pay you’ll get during your probation period, refer to your contract of employment. It should have information on what you can expect.

Statutory Sick Pay

If your employer does not offer enhanced sick pay during probation, you will still be entitled to statutory sick pay. You are entitled to this form of paid sick leave regardless of your contract status.

Statutory sick pay has a waiting period, so it will only be paid if you have been sick for more than 4 days in a row. This includes non working days such as weekends.

Sick pay entitlements are worked out based on the average of the last 8 weeks wage from your employer. If you have worked with the company for less than 8 weeks, you are still entitled to SSP. Your payroll department just have to work it out differently, basing it on your salary.

SSP is paid at a rate of £99.35 per week. You can claim SSP if you earn on average at least £123 a week before tax.

Find out more about statutory sick pay at Citizens Advice.

Our guide on what happens when sick pay runs out has more information if you have a long term absence.

Could You Be Fired for being Sick on Probation?

The most likely outcome from being ill is that your probation will be extended by the number of days you took off.

Even if you have to take a reasonable amount of time off, so long as your employer feels the absence is genuine you should not have a problem. Remember, if you are diagnosed with an illness or need time off for a pre-existing condition  that could be considered a protected characteristic you are protected from unfair dismissal.

Our guide on unfair dismissal during probation talks about your rights in depth.


It’s natural to be concerned about taking time off sick during probation. However, so long as you communicate well with work and follow procedure, it should not cause you any problems with your job.

Further Reading

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