When you’re on probation in a new role, you will be keen to make a good impression. But what if you need to take time off due to ill health? Can you be fired for taking sick leave during probation?
One of the most common reasons to fail probation is excessive sick days. Studies suggest that around 50% of workers who were fired during probation had taken too much time off.
However, don’t worry if you need to take some sick leave. If you approach it correctly, it should not affect your probation. Our guide will look at how to call in sick, what your employer is likely to do, and your rights to sick pay on probation.
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 to you needing to take sick leave during your probation period.
Communication, and showing you can follow company sickness absence policy to the letter is key to being off ill without putting yourself at risk of being fired.
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:-
1. 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. By doing this you’ll demonstrate your ability to stick to workplace procedures.
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.
2. 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 completely 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. Do be aware, however, that if you have repeated or excessive sick days that create concern around your ability to perform your role, you may be at risk of being fired.
During your probation period, and for the first two years of your employment you can be dismissed for any reason, so long as it’s not for an automatically unfair reason such as pregnancy or disability.
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.
Probation Sick Pay
The financial impact of taking sick leave is a concern when on a probationary contract. Many workers may be under the impression that no sick pay is available on probation. However, this is not the case.
It’s not unusual for a reduced range of benefits to be offered to employees during the probation period. This might mean you aren’t entitled to your full wage when off sick, but you will still have the right to some pay.
Do You Get Sick Pay During Probation?
Sick pay is a statutory right from day one of your employment. This means that you are entitled to some kind of sick pay during your probation period.
However, the amount of sick pay you get will depend on your employment contract.
There are two types of sick pay you may be eligible for:-
Company Sick Pay
Company sick pay, or occupational sick pay (OSP) 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 qualifying period known as “waiting days”. That means it will only be paid if you have been sick for more than 4 days in a row. SSP becomes payable on day 4 of your absence.
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 rates in 2023 are currently £109.40 per week, and were increased from £99.35 in April. You can claim SSP if you earn on average at least £123 a week before tax.
Our guide on what happens when sick pay runs out has more information if you have a long term absence.
Find out more about your rights to statutory sick pay at Citizens Advice.
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.
It is possible that some employers would look at dismissal during your probationary period for sickness absence.
This means that you could be fired for being sick on probation if your employer was concerned about your ability to meet the needs of the business moving forward. 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.
However, if your pattern of absences looks suspicious to your employer, dismissal during a probation period after taking time off for sickness is a possibility. If you have been open, honest and genuine it should not be a problem for most workplaces.
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.
- Our guide on your right to holidays during a probation period talks about rights to time off, and how holiday pay is accrued.
- Wonder what happens if you need time off sick during your notice period? This article might also be of help.
Employees on probation have the right to paid sick leave from their first day of employment. However, this entitlement is for statutory sick pay which is paid at a flat rate. Entitlement to full pay for sick leave on probation is at your employers discretion.
The most likely outcome if you are sick during probation is that your employer will extend your probation period by the same number of days you took off. However, if you’ve had too many absences from work for reasons your employer does not feel are genuine then it could result in you failing probation.