Rights When off Work Sick – UK Employment Law

Being off work sick can be a stressful time. You might be uncertain as to your employment rights, and sick pay entitlement. Our guide will help you understand what you need to do when taking time off due to illness, and outline your rights under UK Law.

Your Rights to Sick Pay

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 sick pay you’re entitled to during illness, and how you should communicate with your employer if you are ill.

It’s important to read the policy and follow the procedures laid out in it. If you don’t, you may be subject to disciplinary action.

The right to fully paid sick days is entirely at the discretion of your employer, there is no legal right under UK employment law. Read your Contract of Employment carefully to understand what your employer is offering.

Your workplace might also have policies in place to cover situations where you need time off to go to a hospital appointment, or attend day surgery. Be aware that sick leave rules do not apply to situations where you have notice of needing time off.

Second Jobs

There are some scenarios where you can be signed off one job, and continue to work in another. This is generally OK to do if your contract does not forbid it, and the reason for being off would not prevent you doing your other role.

That means there are some situations where you have the right to claim sick pay in one role, whilst also working another job.


If your employment contract offers you paid sick days, then you will be paid as usual for a set number of absences.

Where your employer does not offer paid sick days, there may still be payment available. If you qualify, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

You may also wish to read our guide on if your employer can make you take holiday instead of sick leave.


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) of £96.35 per week. This is the minimum amount employers must pay you by law.

To be eligible to receive SSP, you must:-

  • Earn at least £120 per week for tax year 2021-22.
  • Notify your employer within the period specified in their sick policy. If a period isn’t specified, you must do so within 7 days.
  • Submit a self certified fit note, or a doctors certificate.
  • Be sick for 4 or more consecutive days, including weekends and holidays.

Sick pay is payable from the 4th working day you are off sick. That means your first 3 sick days are unpaid, with a statutory rate of £96.35 per week kicking in after that.


Absences within 8 Weeks

If you need to take further sick leave within 8 weeks of your first absence, there will be no waiting period for SSP. You will be paid from your first day off work. This is called “Linked waiting days”

SSP is payable by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

If you are working on a zero hours contract, then you are still entitled to SSP. Our guide on zero hour contract sick pay will help you work out if you are entitled to payments when off work sick.


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 Statutory 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 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.
  • 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.

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 Can’t 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.


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.

You don’t need to go into a lot of detail. Just keep it brief and let your manager know 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.


Do You Have to Call in Sick Every Day?

How often you need to call in sick will depend on your employers sickness policy. If they require you to touch base every day, then it’s advisable to follow their requirements.

Hopefully if you have a longer term illness or a sick note covering a set period you will be able to agree to touch base with your manager less frequently.

If your employer asks you to call every day, and it is part of their sickness policy, it’s advisable to do so. If you don’t follow their guidelines you may leave yourself open to disciplinary action.


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.

A fit note indicating you “may be fit to work” suggests you may need some adjustments to allow you to go back to work. If this is the case, your doctor may suggest what would help you return to your job. In this scenario your employer should discuss what adjustments you need with you.

If you can’t agree on suitable changes, you should be treated as “not fit for work” and your entitlement to sick pay will continue.


Frequency of Contact From Your Employer During Sick Leave

There are no UK employment law regulations that directly deal with how often your employer should be in touch with you when you’re off sick.

Check your workplace sick policy to see any guidelines about how HR or your manager should be contacting you when you’re off work.

It is not unusual for contact to be made for a general welfare check during a longer absence. They may also touch base and ask if you know when you are returning to work so they can make arrangements to cover your absence.


Reasonable Contact

If your employer contacts you too often it can feel intrusive, and you may even feel they are harassing you. The amount of contact you have with them must be reasonable.

The level of contact which is reasonable will depend on the reason for your absence from work. If you are off with illness related to stress or depression, too much contact can make mental health issues worse.

In this type of situation, an employer can be deemed to be acting unreasonably. Particularly if your condition is work related and their behaviour leads to you resigning from your position. It may give grounds for constructive dismissal claim at an employment tribunal.


Disciplinary Hearings & Sickness Absence

Many people worry about the prospect of disciplinary action or dismissal from a job as a result of their sickness.

Whilst there are protections in UK employment law against disability discrimination. However, you can still get a written warning or disciplinary if your employer is concerned about sickness absence.


Disciplinary Hearings for Sickness Absence

A fit note from your GP should always be accepted as proof of a genuine illness. However, even if you have been off sick with a doctors note, your employer can still instigate a disciplinary hearing or issue a writen warning.

High levels of sickness absence are valid grounds to issue a formal warning. Continued problems with absences can lead to you being fairly dismissed.

Employment tribunals accept that a business needs its staff to attend work regularly in order to function properly.


Dismissal Due to Sickness

If you have been employed for less than two years, you cannot make an unfair dismissal claim against your employer.

This means that if your employer feels you’ve had too much time off sick in your first two years of service, they can dismiss you. They should still follow proper disciplinary procedures if they do wish to terminate your employment.


Protected Characteristics

The exception to this is if you are sacked because you have a disability. This can include illnesses such as cancer. You must have disclosed your illness to your employer before dismissal in order to make a claim at an employment tribunal.

When you have less than two years service your employer will be able to sack you for any reasons unrelated to protected characteristics without fear of a tribunal claim.


Correct Procedures for Dismissal on Capability Grounds

If you have been ill for a long time, or will not be able to return to work, your employer may be able to dismiss you.

This is usually referred to as “Dismissal on Capability Grounds” and is one of the 5 fair reasons for dismissal.

However, careful procedures must be followed and assessments made to understand your medical status.

Failure to follow proper procedure could leave them open to legal action. These procedures would usually include some or all of the following:-

  • Getting information from your doctor or hospital consultant about your fitness to work.
  • Referring you to occupational health or medical staff hired by them to make an assessment on your health status.

What’s in an Occupational Health Report?

An occupational health report would look at your health condition and your likelihood of recovery, alongside details of your treatment.

It would also include a timeframe for you returning to work, and would also lay out any reasonable adjustments you might require in the workplace.

If you are asked to undertake an examination by your employers own health consultants and refuse, you may be deemed as having acted unreasonably. This would impact your ability to make a claim if you were subsequently dismissed. An occupational health report can also help facilitate your return to work.

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.


Handing in Your Notice While Off Sick

If you have a period of sickness during your notice period, or decide to hand in your notice whilst off sick you are still entitled to some notice pay. The amount of pay you are entitled to will vary depending on your contract, and the circumstances of your absence.

If you don’t know what notice pay you’d be entitled to if you resign while off work ill, first of all check your contract.


How Much Notice Pay When Off Sick?

If you hand in your notice whilst off sick, you will still be entitled to some statutory notice pay at your full wage.

Statutory minimum notice pay is 1 week. If your notice period is longer than 1 week then your employer should pay you SSP for the remaining weeks of your employment. If you have exhausted your sick pay entitlement you may still be entitled to some paid notice.

The same rules apply if you are dismissed on grounds of ill health.

Further Reading


Workplace Sickness FAQs

It’s common to wonder what you should and should not do when off work sick. Our FAQ’s will help clear up questions and concerns.

What are you allowed to do when off sick?

If you are off work sick, it does not necessarily mean you cannot leave the house. For example, it would be reasonable to attend the chemist or supermarket for medication and food. There is also no law prohibiting you from going out and doing things when off work sick. However, if you called into work sick with the flu and were later seen out at the pub, you might find yourself the subject of disciplinary action.

Do I have to tell my employer why I am off sick?

You aren’t obliged to tell your employer why you’re off sick. Any sick note provided by your doctor will not give any sensitive information about your health. However, if your sickness is related to your work it is a good idea to share this information, so your workplace can make reasonable adjustments on your return. If you do share information, you have the right to medical confidentiality at work.

Do I have to ring in sick every day?

How often you have to ring in sick will depend on your employer’s sickness procedure. If they require you to call in every day it is advisable to follow their procedure. However, in the case of a more serious illness or a period covered by a sick note, you may not have to do this. Check your employee handbook or discuss with your manager.

Can I leave the house when off work sick?

When you are off work sick, it’s reasonable to leave the house under many circumstances. You might need to attend a medical appointment, get pharmacy medicine, or go to the supermarket. However, your employer may have questions if you are seen engaged in any leisure activities.

How long can you sign yourself off work sick?

You can sign yourself off work by self certifying for the first 7 days of any illness. After this, you will need to see a doctor to get an extension to your sick leave.

30 thoughts on “Rights When off Work Sick – UK Employment Law

  1. Leigh says:

    Hi I was in contact with some who has got covid. I had a test done it came back negative but fron track and trace give me a cover note for 10 days as I have copd and in remission of thyroid cancer. Yet my employer has put me down for the 10 days unpaid is this right. I did phone in and sent them cover note

  2. radkit says:

    Hi. I’v been on sick day, from saturday half day. Sunday and monday was My weekend (days off). Tuesday i had holiday. So i’m on self sick days from wednesday. Its 3 days. Can I still ask about sick day on saturday or I have to go to thr doctor? Thank You

  3. Debs says:

    I became unwell on the Friday the day after my 2nd covid jab. Left work on Friday at 9.20 I don’t work weekends. Then Monday morning I phoned in early hours telling them I’m still unwell. I phoned up late afternoon saying I would resume on Tuesday. I went into work on Tuesday once I got there I started feeling unwell. I did not clock in as I wasn’t in the building for 5 minutes. I got told I need to start another sickline as I resumed. Is this right? sit

  4. Ginger says:

    Question about filling in a SSP note.I have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and this week have taken a week of work with severe pain and hospital treatment. On the ssp note it asks day sickness started which for me with this pain was 2019 or do they mean last day at work? Thanks of any advice.

  5. Tosh says:

    My company has given me a warning due to sickness and have told me I must not have any time of fuel to sickness for 6 month’s Please advise

  6. Sardine says:

    I’ve been of work for 20 weeks it started with covid and then I had plueralsy and long covid I am still unable to go back to work through having symptoms of long covid can I loose my job

  7. Ann says:

    Been off sick since November 20, bereavement and now been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, aswell as having osteoarthritis in knees and possible ankle. I have been putting sick noes in. I feel i no longer am able to work, im in to much pain, also with medication. Just dont know what steps to take next as unable to work.

  8. Disco says:

    I’ve been off work for nearly 3 month and the doctor was giving me sick notes once a month , and I was ringing work to let them know , now the docctor has given me a sicknote for 3 months do I have to ring work to let them.know or can I just message them thanks

  9. Sue says:

    I was off from work sighned off by doctor for depression when my sick note ran out I was called in for a back to work interview where the manager took me off my night workwhich I had done for over 2 years offered day work but I can’t do days because of looking after my mum so felt I had to give notice as my job wasn’t days

  10. AK says:

    Although I had Covid symptoms such as high temperature and cough which I told my manager but he said to come outside the work place then my supervisor would take me to the Covid centre.I felt this was wrong decision because I would need to travel using public transport, thereby exposing other transport users to the risk of being infected with Covid 19. I did not object to these instructions because it was my believe that the manager did not believe that I had these symptoms. Eventually I came and I waited outside in the cold for 10 minutes and one of the supervisors came and took me in the van to the centre for Covid test. Few days after the test the results came out positive. What I want to know is why I was subjected to risking the live of public transport users and supervisor. And also I would like to raise the questions as to why Covid 19 testing kit was not sent to me as another option, knowing fully that the regulations says once you develop symptoms or you are in contact with anyone that has symptoms you should isolate yourself until your Covid 19 status is confirmed. Also I may be wrong but from the information I gathered from colleagues there has never been anytime that anyone who calls in with symptoms was told to come in for test rather they were told to stay at home and management will arrange for testing kit to be sent to them at home.PLEASE HELP ME

  11. Eddie says:

    I’ve been off sick for 4 days Called up on day 1 Couldn’t speak on day 2/3 so didn’t call up, having dental problems, got paperwork from dentist emergency appointment and prescribed medication for 5 days. Called up on day 4 to explain the situation as can speak better now and to let them know I would be returning on the following day. Been told a letter of awol (absense without leave) has been sent out to my home address. What can I do about the situation?

  12. Mick says:

    The trouble with employers these days is the fact that no one Cares. I remember when HR departments used to be called personnel ,and used to work with the employee and the employer ,Not so now. My employer has absolutely no regard to the currant situation regarding the pandemic ,We have options with regards to sick leave these being Take unpaid, Make the time up or use annual leave for you sickness or self isolation .

  13. Am says:

    I have been off sick from work for three weeks and my supervisor had called asking if I could meet him while I was off work. So I had come in with my friends to work due too me not being well and had spoken to him regarding about work. Can I be dismissed from work for showing up to work out of work hours to have a 30 minute talk regarding about work.

  14. Eveline says:

    I have been off sick for close to 8 months with long covid. On my phased return back to work I was told my hours and duties were given to other staff members for the business to operate and now I’m being demoted and only given 1/5 of my normal hours. What can I do? What are my rights? I’ve worked there for over 2 years and I was the manager now I’ve got no idea where I stand.

  15. Beckbo says:

    I’m in a temp job now for 5 weeks hoping to be kept. I’m having my first sick day due to earache and headache, can this affect me being kept ?

  16. T5554 says:

    I’ve been off work since the start of February with a lung disease My employer was paying me SSP up until August, when my 28 weeks was up I still haven’t been able to return to work due to my illness For the first 28 weeks I provided sick notes from my GP In August The Department of Communities declared me unfit for work I haven’t supplied any sick notes to my employer since my 28 weeks was up in August as they had stopped paying me SSP, my employer has now contacted me requesting sick notes from August until now, 20th November I would appreciate it it someone could advise me if I have to supply my employer with sick notes for the period after they stopped paying me SSP Many thanks

  17. T says:

    My company are now saying that if im sick on a normal shift ill lose my overtime rate for a different shift is this allowed

  18. Saab says:

    I was furloughed I told was boss that I have received my hospital appointment for operation,before that I have to self isolate for Covid test. So whe I received my wages he took off me from furlough and paid me only £135 pounds for two weeks. I have been working with the company since 1998. So now I had operation on 20 th Oct 2020 so I don’t know what shall I do to approach my boss because I am not fit for work at least another 3 weeks.

  19. Rich says:

    I had a siezure my company had me in after 4 weeks sickness and offered me a package to leave notmuch I have been there for 13 months I signed a confidentiality form this compensation will run out soon what can I do I am 60 and still waiting to see neurologist

  20. XY says:

    I’m signed off work with post viral recovery. And my HR and managers harassing, disturbing me constantly from different angles, different emails even though I asked complete rest (I’m still breathless and fatigued) until I update them following my phone appointment booked with Occupational health in 4 weeks. My employer have my sick notes and my respiratory specialist also sent them a letter . Can Occupational health stop my employers keep emailing me constantly, which has been jeopardising my recovery? Thanks

  21. Kj says:

    I have been given 3 months sick note I am self employed 62 years old with depression and back nerve problems. Will I get hassle to look for a job.

  22. Tig says:

    I am currently off work with depression but my boss keeps asking for my medical records and sending someone to my house to see if I’m at home is this normal

  23. Rach says:

    I was off work with stress for 2 weeks I ssp but I lost lot of money and now struggling can I claim something to help me.

  24. Dannie says:

    So i work in aviation which has been hit very hard from coronavirus,so they have to come up with a criteria in which to make people redundant,i was off over 1 year ago with a abad back to which i went to my doctors and my Gp signed me off for 2 weeks.I have received my letter today from my company using this as a excuse to make me redundant i dont know if they are aloud to do this or not Many thanks

  25. Allan says:

    My wife is currently off sick with depression /anxiety /stress she doesn’t qualify for ssp she has claimed ESA her employers are not very understanding they were continually pressuring her to return to work take her holiday pay and return the keys now they are asking to see her sick notes even though she is not getting ssp

  26. Rose says:

    I am currently signed off sick. I need to have my wage slips as the council have requested them so they can assess my housing benefit. My boss is refusing to post them to me and will not allow anyone else to collect them on my behalf despite me giving my consent for this. He says I must collect them myself. Is this allowed? I feel I am being forced to go or I will be in serious financial difficulty.

  27. Ruth says:

    I have just had major knee surgery and have contacted by my employer 5 weeks post op asking me when I anticipate returning to work (without having even seen my consultant post op f/up)what they can do to help my return to work job/work station Will I need an OH referral and do I intend to return to my current role or will I need to be redeployed or take retirement.My question is should they be contacting me at such an early stage in my recovery asking these questions!

  28. Ellen says:

    I have had three sick days off in one year.I had a miscarriage as being one of the sick days, I had a coronoviris scare and the last being pregnancy related.my employer gave me a letter of concern saying it was unnactble to the company for me to have two sick days off in one year .If I have one more I will get a disciplinary.what can I do I being treated unfairly?.

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