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Off work because of sickness

What is sick pay

If you are off sick from work, you might get:

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). This is money paid by law that most employees are entitled to if they are off sick
  • contractual sick pay. This is money that your contract of employment says you are entitled to if you are off sick.

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Statutory Sick Pay

If you are off sick from work, you may get Statutory Sick Pay(SSP). SSP is paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks. SSP is treated like earnings for the purposes of income tax and forms part of your taxable income.

To get SSP, you must earn more than £111 a week.

It does not matter whether you are working full-time or part- time. Agency workers and workers on a fixed-term contract qualify for SSP. If you are self-employed, you do not qualify for SSP.

For more information about agency workers, see Agency workers' rights.

For more information about workers on fixed-term contracts, go to the Directgov website at www.direct.gov.uk.

If you cannot get SSP, for example, because you do not earn enough or if you have been off sick for more than 28 weeks, your employer will give you form SSP1 and tell you why. You can use form SSP1 to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) from your local Jobcentre Plus office if you are not entitled to either SSP or contractual sick pay. In Northern Ireland, contact your local Jobs and Benefits office or Social Security office.

How much is Statutory Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is paid at a fixed weekly rate of £87.55. If you need to work out how much Statutory Sick Pay you will get, go to the calculator on the HM Revenue and Customs website at: www.hmrc.gov.uk.

How long is Statutory Sick Pay paid for

You will not get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for the first three days that you can't work, unless you were getting it within the last eight weeks. If you were off sick and getting SSP within the last eight weeks, you will get it again from your first day off work without having to wait for three days.

SSP is paid for up to 28 weeks. If you are off sick with gaps of eight weeks or less, your days off sick are added together to count towards the 28 weeks. If you are off sick more than once with more than eight weeks in between, the periods you were off sick are not added together and the 28 weeks starts being counted again each time. SSP also stops three years after you first become entitled to it, even if you have not had 28 weeks of the benefit. If your employment ends while you are on SSP, your sick pay will stop too. SSP does not stop if you go into hospital while you are off work.

When SSP runs out or you stop being employed, you may be able to claim Employment and Support Allowance.

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Contractual sick pay

Your contract of employment may give you more than the amount of SSP you can get and you may get it for a longer period. Sick pay under your contract is called contractual sick pay. Contractual sick pay is treated like earnings for the purposes of income tax and forms part of your taxable income.

Contractual pay might not be your normal rate of pay, but it cannot be less than SSP. For example, some contracts might say you get your full pay for the first three months of sickness and then you get half-pay for another three months. Depending on what your contract says, you might get contractual sick pay from the first day of sickness – this is different to Statutory Sick Pay which you usually only get after three days of sickness.

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Employment and Support Allowance

If you are off sick for longer than 28 weeks or if you do not earn enough to qualify for SSP, you may qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. There are two sorts of ESA. One sort is called contributory ESA and it depends on whether you have paid enough national insurance contributions. The other sort is called income-related ESA and this depends on your income and savings. You can get either one sort of ESA or both sorts. If you get income-related ESA, you will automatically get the maximum amount of help with your Council Tax (rates in Northern Ireland) and Housing Benefit, as well as other means-tested benefits.

ESA is paid by the Department of Work and Pensions and, for most new claims, it replaces an old benefit called Incapacity Benefit.

For more about ESA and Incapacity Benefit, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.

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Telling your employer you are off sick

If you can, you should tell your employer straight away that you are ill and unable to go to work. You may lose sick pay if you don't tell your employer straight away, unless you have a good reason not to tell them.

Telling your employer you are sick – Statutory Sick Pay

Your employer may ask you to follow certain rules about telling them you are off sick. They still have to pay you SSP even if you don't follow these rules. For example, they still have to pay you SSP even if you don't:

  • provide a medical certificate until your eighth day of illness
  • phone in by a certain time of day to tell them you are sick
  • phone in more than once a week when you are off sick
  • phone in yourself and ask someone else to do it on your behalf.

However, if you break the rules, you will be breaking the terms of your employment contract and eventually this could lead to you losing your job. Your employer must let you know what these rules are in advance.

Self-certification of sickness and SSP

During your first seven days off sick, your employer must not ask you for a medical certificate. However, they can ask you for confirmation that you are sick and you must provide it if they ask for it, otherwise you may not get any SSP. Your employer may ask for either:-

  • a handwritten note from you saying what is wrong, or
  • a self-certification of sickness form provided by your employer, which you must complete. This could be form SC2, provided to employers by HM Revenue and Customs, or your employer's own self-certification form. There is more information about self-certification and a copy of the SC2 form on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

Telling your employer you are sick – contractual sick pay

Your employer may ask you to follow certain rules about telling them you are off sick. For example, they may insist that you:

  • provide a medical certificate immediately
  • phone in by a certain time of day to tell them you are sick
  • phone in more than once a week when you are off sick
  • phone in yourself (not ask someone else to do it on your behalf).

Your employer must let you know what these rules are in advance and if you break the rules, your employer can refuse to pay you your contractual sick pay. For example, our employer can refuse to pay you contractual sick pay for the days you are off and do not call in sick. Also if you break the rules, you will be breaking the terms of your employment contract and eventually this could lead to you losing your job.

Self-certification of sickness and contractual sick pay

There is no specific law saying what evidence your employer can ask you for to prove you are sick, so that you are entitled to contractual sick pay. For example, your employer may require you to provide a self-certification form as soon as you go off sick, or may require you to provide a medical certificate within a set number of days from first going off sick. There is more information about self-certification and sickness, including a copy of the HM Revenue and Customs self-certification form on the GOV.UK website at www.gov.uk.

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Medical certificates - fit notes

Medical certificates can also be known as fit notes. On a medical certificate, your doctor can say that you're:

  • not fit for work
  • may be fit for work.

Your doctor can also recommend that your employer makes some changes at your workplace. These changes might be things like:

  • a change to your working hours
  • a change to your duties
  • a phased return to work. This means that you would start coming back to work gradually
  • adaptations to your working environment.

It's up to you and your employer to agree between you what changes should be made.

If your employer refuses to make the changes recommended by your doctor, you will still be considered unfit for work and can continue to get Statutory Sick Pay.

If you recover sooner than expected you can return to work before the end date on your medical certificate if your employer agrees to this. However, they may insist on you obtaining a new certificate from your GP to confirm that you are fit to return to work.

Your GP may produce a computer-completed fit note for you to give to your employer, much in the same way as they produce a prescription. This fit note will have the same information as a handwritten note.

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If you are off sick because of a disability

If you are disabled and your employer refuses to give you sick pay when you are off sick for a reason connected with your disability, they could be breaking the law. You may be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal for disability discrimination. You may first have to raise a written grievance with your employer first.

For more about disability discrimination at work, see Discrimination at work.

For more information about raising a grievance, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you have been discriminated against, you will need specialist advice. A Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find a specialist adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give e-mail advice, click on nearest CAB.

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You are off work for several short periods of time

If you are off sick for more than four short periods (four to seven days) in a year, your employer can contact Medical Services to look into the reasons you have given for missing work. Your employer contacts Medical Services through HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Medical Services may want to contact your own GP to ask about your medical condition but they can only do so if you give them permission. If the Medical Services report says you have been off work without good reason, your employer may refuse to pay you sick pay. You can appeal against this decision if you think it is wrong.

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You are off work for long periods of time

If you have long periods of time off work, your employer can contact Medical Services to decide if you are fit enough to do your job. Your employer contacts Medical Services through HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Medical Services may want to contact your own GP to ask about your medical condition but they can only do so if you give them permission.

If the Medical Services report says you have been off work without good reason, your employer may refuse to pay you sick pay. You can appeal against this decision if you think it is wrong.

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Off sick whilst you are away on holiday

If you are off work on holiday, and you become ill enough that you could be off work sick, you can ask your employer to treat your time off work as sick leave and not holiday. You can then ask your employer to postpone your holiday to make up for the time you were off sick.

In the same way, if you were about to go off work on holiday and you become sick, you can ask your employer to postpone your holiday and treat your leave as sick leave instead.

However, if you want to treat your time off work as sick leave instead of holiday, your employer can pay you sick pay rather than holiday pay for that time. Sick pay will be less than normal pay.

Your employment contract should say how and when you should let your employer know you are going to be off work sick, and what proof they might need.

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What you can do if your employer won't pay you Statutory Sick Pay

If you think you should be getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) but your employer won't pay it, they should give you a statement on form SSP1 explaining why. You use this form to:

  • claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and
  • ask for your entitlement to SSP to be reconsidered.

If you think you should have been paid SSP and can't resolve the dispute with your employer, you or an adviser acting on for you, can contact the Statutory Payments Disputes Team to resolve the matter.

The contact details for the Statutory Payments Disputes Team are:-

Statutory Payments Disputes Team
Room BP 2301
Benton Park View
Longbenton
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE98 1YS

Tel: 0300 056 0630

HMRC can fine an employer who repeatedly fails to pay you SSP.

If you want to make a claim to the employment tribunal, you will need specialist advice. A Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find a specialist adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give e-mail advice, click on nearest CAB.

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What you can do if your employer won't pay you contractual sick pay

If your employer won't pay you the contractual sick pay that you are entitled to, this is breach of contract. You could make a claim for unlawful deduction of wages to an employment tribunal. You may need to raise a grievance with your employer first.

For more information about raising a grievance, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you want to make a claim to the employment tribunal, you will need specialist advice. A Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find a specialist adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give e-mail advice, click on nearest CAB.

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Benefits whilst you are off sick

If sick pay is your only income whilst you are off sick, you may be able to claim other benefits such as Housing Benefit and, in England Wales and Scotland, you may be able to apply for Council Tax reduction.

To find out what benefits you may be entitled to, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled. For more information about Housing Benefit in England, Wales and Scotland, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit. For more information about Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland, see Help with your rent – Housing Benefit. For more information about Council Tax Reductionin England, Wales and Scotland, see Council Tax Reduction – what you need to know.. For more information about help with your rates in Northern Ireland, see Help with your rates.

If you are getting SSP, you are treated as being in work for the purposes of getting Working Tax Credit and you'll carry on getting it.

For more information about Working Tax Credit, see Benefits and tax credits for people in work.

You cannot get SSP if you are getting Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay. Even if you are not getting these benefits, you cannot get SSP for 18 weeks beginning four weeks before your baby is due, or from when your baby is born if this is earlier. Your employer should tell you if you cannot get SSP by giving you form SSP1, or their own version of it.

For information about Maternity Allowance and Statutory Maternity Pay, see Benefits for families and children.

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You are dismissed for taking time off sick

If you are dismissed while you are off sick and getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), your employer must give you form SSP1. This explains why SSP is no longer being paid. You should complete the form and take it to your local Jobcentre Plus office to claim Employment and Support Allowance. In Northern Ireland, take it to your local Jobs and Benefits office or Social Security Office. If you believe you have been dismissed because you are ill, or because you have asked for SSP, you may be able to complain to an employment tribunal. You may have to raise a grievance first. However, a contract may be frustrated by long-term sickness. This means that it no longer exists and neither the employer or the employee has any obligations under it. There is therefore no dismissal.

For more information about dismissal, see Dismissal.

For more information about raising a grievance, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you have been dismissed for taking time off sick, you need to see a specialist adviser. A Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find a specialist adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give e-mail advice, click on nearest CAB.

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You are dismissed because of your disability

If you are disabled and your employer dismisses you for taking time off sick for a reason connected with your disability, your employer could be breaking the law. You may be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal for disability discrimination.

You may have to raise a written grievance first.

For more about disability discrimination, see Termination of employment and disability discrimination.

For more information about raising a grievance, in England, Wales and Scotland, see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

If you have been dismissed because of disability, you need to see an experienced adviser. A Citizens Advice Bureau can help you find a specialist adviser. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give e-mail advice, click on nearest CAB.

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