Sick leave and sick pay

If you are too ill to go to work, you may be entitled to sick pay.  Find out what your rights are when it comes to sick pay and sick leave.

Am I entitled to sick pay?

  • Generally, if you’re employed in the UK you are entitled to sick pay when you’re unable to work due to illness.
  • You should tell your employer as soon as possible that you will not able to attend work.
  • Your employer may request a “return to work” interview when you go back to work.
  • You’ll need a fit note (also called a sick note) if you’re off for more than seven days (including days you wouldn’t normally work, like weekends)
  • You’re still entitled to sick leave if you are on holiday. (There are limited circumstances in which you may still be entitled to sick pay if you work abroad.)
  • You can still get sick pay if you’re on a zero-hours contract (and earn more than £123 a week, and not self-employed), though some employers might not offer you work when you are ill.
  • Self-employed people are not entitled to sick pay.
  • Sick pay entitlements

Many organisations, like the NHS and councils, give you your full pay when you’re sick, and have what’s known as an occupational sick pay scheme.

However, if you work for a private company or have been outsourced, you may only be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – the minimum amount the government says employers can pay.

Under SSP, you don’t get any sick pay for the first three days you are sick.

Statutory sick pay rates

From 8 April 2024, If you earn over £123 per week and are off sick for more than four days in a row, you are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay of £116.75 per week from the fourth working day on which you are off sick. This can be paid for up to 28 weeks of sick leave.

After this time, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if your employer stops paying SSP.

You may not be entitled to sick pay if:

  • you do not report your sick leave as soon as possible;
  • you do not provide medical evidence of your illness from the eighth day of your sick leave;
  • you are on sick leave for long periods.

If you have any issues with sick pay or entitlements, speak to your UNISON rep for advice.

Extended or frequent periods of sick leave

If you are on sick leave for four or more times of four to seven days in a single year, your employer may contact HM Revenue and Customs’ Medical Services.

HMRC’s Medical Services may then contact your doctor to confirm that you have been away from work for good reason.

If you’re off sick for extended periods, your employer also has the right to contact HMRC’s Medical Services to independently assess the state of your health. If they report that you are fit to work, your employer can stop paying you sick pay.

You have the right to appeal if you are deemed fit for work.

Remember that your employer is not allowed to contact your doctor to confirm the state of your health without first getting permission from you.

Work-related illness

If you’re injured or contract an illness while at work, you must record it in the accident book. If you see the doctor about this illness, make sure they are aware that it is work-related.

If you believe that the incident affecting you is an ongoing health and safety issue, contact your UNISON safety rep.

Injuries and illnesses at work don’t affect your right to take sick leave or be paid sick pay.

My employer is threatening to sack me for taking too much time off sick, what should I do?

Make sure you speak to your UNISON rep as soon as possible. Your rep will explain your options and provide ongoing support.

What does UNISON do?

As a trade union, we believe that all workers should be treated fairly and receive adequate pay when they are ill. In the past, we have successfully campaigned for outsourced workers to keep the same sick pay, and other terms, as the people in a workplace who have not been outsourced.

Not a UNISON member?

Being in a trade union protects you if you have to take long periods of sick leave or are injured at work.

Join today