Calling in Sick to Work – Your Rights When Off Work Sick

Whether you love your job or you loathe it, there is every chance that there will come a point when you are calling in sick to work. You might be uncertain as to your rights when you are off work sick. Our guide will help you navigate dealing with taking time off work sick, and outline your rights under UK Law.

Workplace Sick Day Policies

It’s likely that your employer will have a sick day policy with guidelines about what you need to do if you are unwell. The policy should contain information on how much pay you’re entitled to during illness, and how you should communicate with your employer if you are ill.

At the start of any new job, it’s very important to know if you are entitled to sick days off. Most permanent, full-time employees are allotted a number of days each year in which they can call in sick and still receive their full wages. But this is entirely up to the company so it’s important not to rely on it. Read your Contract of Employment carefully.


How To Call in Sick to Work

If you don’t have a comprehensive sick day policy document, or information in your contract about how you should call in sick – these are some general guidelines. Following these steps will help you communicate your illness to your employer effectively, and understand your rights to sick pay.

Call The First Day you Cannot go to Work

It is important to contact your employer (or have someone contact them on your behalf) on the very first day you cannot attend work due to sickness to tell them that you won’t be coming to work.

You should know who to notify beforehand and where to send in medical certificates. You should also be aware of any rules concerning self-certification and what’s likely to happen if you fail to comply.

If your employment contract offers you sick pay, then you will be paid as usual. If you aren’t covered, you won’t be paid by your company.

What to Say When You Call in Sick

Your work will likely have specified how they’d like you to communicate in the event of an illness. It’s a good idea to stick to their procedures where possible. Don’t send a message to a co-worker to pass along to your boss, as this will give a poor impression.

You don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Just keep it brief and let your managerknow you are sick and won’t be able to make it. It’s good practise to give an indication of how long you feel you may be off. This will let your team plan how to cover your workload effectively. Good communication is key to maintaining a good working relationship.

When You Will Need To Provide a Sick Note

You can self certify short absences, your employer will usually provide any paperwork needed to do this. However if you are off work for more than 7 consecutive days you will need to see a doctor. The sick note (or fit note as it is now called) will indicate whether you are “unfit to work” or “may be fit for work” if some reasonable accommodations at work would allow you to return.


Your Right to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

If you are still off work sick after 4 days and unable to return to work, you are likely to be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is the minimum amount employers must pay you by law. To be eligible to receive SSP, you must adhere to the following:

  • Earn at least £120 per week for tax year 2021-22.
  • Be between 16 and 65 years of age.
  • Have performed some work under your employment contract.
  • Be sick for 4 or more consecutive days.

However, SSP is not paid if you were in receipt of Incapacity Benefit within the past 8 weeks before seeking to claim SSP or if you are in the Maternity Allowance period.

How to Claim SSP

Once you meet all the requirements of SSP, your employer will send you the correct documents for you to make a claim. For an absence of a week or less, a self-certification completed by you is all that is usually required to confirm your illness. After a week, you need to provide a doctor’s note.

How Much Sick Pay You Will Receive

  • Employees who qualify can get up to £96.35 a week in tax year 2021-22. If you get contractual sick pay, you may receive more than this but you cannot receive less. You will not get paid for the first 3 days of your sickness unless you were receiving SSP at any time within the past 8 weeks prior to your latest illness. In that event, you would be paid from your first day off at work.
  • You can receive SSP for up to 28 weeks for a total of 3 years. However, you must return to work for at least 8 weeks before commencing another 28 week period.
  • If you have a persistent illness and are still unable to return to work after 28 weeks, you may be able to claim Employment Support Allowance (ESA) but you cannot receive SSP and ESA at the same time.
  • You receive SSP in the same way as you would receive your regular pay
  • If your employment ends whilst you are in receipt of SSP, your payments will stop
  • SSP is not affected if you have to go into hospital
  • Working abroad? You may be able to get SSP if your employer is liable to pay National Insurance contributions for you
  • If you go abroad to visit, SSP can still be paid provided you can prove you are still sick
  • If SSP is your only income whilst you are off sick, you may be entitled to receive other benefits in addition, such as housing benefit

Can You Be Sacked For Being Off Work With a Doctors Note?

The short answer is that yes, you can be sacked whilst signed off work by a doctor. If you have a long term ailment that means you can’t do your job, then you can be sacked.

However, if you have a disability (which can include illness such as cancer) your employer must follow the law. They have a legal duty to support disability at work. Dismissing an employee with a disability could be unlawful discrimination, and leave them open to action at an employment tribunal.

If you have a history of repeated absence at work, and your employer is not satisfied that the illnesses were genuine, you may find yourself subject to disciplinary action.

If you are dismissed whilst in receipt of SSP, your employer must give you form SSP1 which explains why they are no longer paying you SSP. You should complete the form and take it to your local job centre plus. If you believe you have been dismissed because you are ill or in receipt of SSP, you may be able to complain to an Employment Tribunal. You should seek advice from an experienced employment advisor at your local benefit office.

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