Taking time off work can be a daunting prospect, far from the lovely notion of pulling a sickie to have a duvet day, or something reminiscent of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Odd days here and there can add up, and solid chunks of weeks and months can cause a lot of stress, not to mention a dent in your income.

So, what are the rules around sick leave? The answer isn’t straightforward because a great deal depends on your job, including whether you are permanent or temporary, full or part time, with contracted hours or not. If you are permanently employed, your employer will have a sick leave policy; if you don’t have a copy of yours from your contract, request one.


First off, you can self-certify the first 7 days you are sick from work, meaning no doctor’s note is required. After that, you will need to be signed off officially. Many (decent) companies and organisations will have their own form of sick pay, usually lasting a set period of time depending on how long you have been with the organisation. If this is not available, or it runs out, you should be entitled to SSP (Statutory Sick Pay).

SSP is something you need to qualify for, and you need to have been sick from work 4+ consecutive days (inclusive of non-working days). The statutory amount is £88.45 per week and it can be paid for up to 28 weeks. SSP is paid for those days you would normally have worked (minus the first 3 days sick, unless you’re receiving SSP for the second time within the last 8 weeks).

To be eligible, you need to have been ill at least four consecutive days, inform your employer in line with their policy (make sure you get them know as soon as you’re able to that you’re not fit for work each day), and learn at least £112 pre-tax per week. Some (again, decent) employers will instigate SSP on verbal acknowledgement of your situation. However, some may require this in writing, so it’s a good idea to draft up a quick letter to state you are off sick, how long the sick note lasts, and that you are requesting sick pay during your absence.

SSP is paid by your employer, so you should receive this as you would your regular wage. In line with this, tax and NI will also be deducted.

If you’re not eligible, or you have exceeded your employer’s sick pay and SSP, you may be able to claim ESA. Your employer should be able to supply the SSP1 form you will need.


Keep in mind that every employer has their own practices and requirements. Speak to your manager, check your contract or contact HR for the details so you know where you stand. Most will want you to keep in touch with them (a phone call, email, visit) at certain intervals to keep them updated on your situation. That can be a stipulation for receiving SSP, so make sure you know if you need to be contacting them regularly. Also, it’s important to make sure you call your GP for a sick note in time before it runs out. In between visits, if you’re off for a prolonged period, a telephone consultation or simply requesting a sick note by calling reception, should suffice and save you a potentially lengthy wait for a face to face appointment. GPs don’t seem to forward date sick notes either, so keep that in mind.

Above all, remember that your health is important and needs to come first. Employers are duty bound to help you, not hinder you, in recovering from ill health or surgery, but unfortunately the care and understanding you receive can vary drastically between companies. Employer sick pay, ESA and SSP are there to help you get by during periods where you are unwell, make sure you don’t miss out, or make yourself worse by worrying or trying to work when you’re not able to.




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