Your rights: Sick Leave and Sick Pay

We take a look at what your rights are regarding sick pay and leave, if you fall unwell and have to take time off work.

Sick Pay And Leave


Being unwell is never fun, but as a parent or carer any sickness can create additional stress and worry.

Not only is there the concern about missing work and letting your colleagues down, but there are also all the additional concerns about caring for your children or other relatives you are responsible for, and sticking to your daily routine. If you’re employed, however, you do at least have the reassurance that you’ll get paid.

This article explains your rights during sick leave and what you can expect in terms of sick pay.

Taking sick leave

If you’re sick, most employers would prefer that you take time off work. It helps you recover faster, prevents mistakes happening because you’re not feeling the best, and stops you passing on illness to your colleagues. The same is true if you can’t work because of an injury – employers don’t want to be liable for your injury becoming worse or leading to other complications.

In the UK you can take up to seven consecutive days off work without needing to see your doctor.

You will need to contact your employer to let them know you’re unwell. Some companies have specific rules around who to contact, when to call by and whether you need to speak in person or can text or leave a voicemail.

Sick notes

If you’ve taken sick leave and have been ill for more than seven days in a row, you need to get a sick note, or fit note, from your doctor. The note will state whether you are ‘not fit for work’ or ‘may be fit for work.’

If the note says you may be fit for work, your employer should discuss with you any changes that could help you return to work – such as different hours or tasks while you continue to recover.

Your doctor may include in a sick note how long they advise you take off work. This is often described as being ‘signed off work’. Your employer can take a copy of the note, but you should keep the original.

What is Statutory Sick Pay?

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) exists to support employed people in the UK who are unable to work through illness. It entitles you to £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks.

SSP is paid by your employer in the same way that you usually receive your salary. Tax and national insurance will be deducted.

To qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) you must be classed as an employee and have done some work for your employer – that is, you’re not sick on your first day. You must have been ill for at least four days in a row (including non-working days), and earn an average of at least £118 per week. You must also have told your employer that you’re sick before their deadline – or within seven days if they don’t have one.

Enhanced sick pay or Occupational sick pay

Some employers will apply their own discretion as to whether you receive full pay or SSP after four consecutive days of illness. Some organisations also pay their staff more than SSP – it can be called enhanced sick pay or occupational sick pay. The details will be in your employment contract.

You might find that you will be given full pay for a certain number of weeks of illness, and then perhaps half pay for a further period. Take a look at your contract to understand how you qualify for this pay and any exclusions.

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