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Sick leave

Nobody likes to think of having to take any long-term time off work due to illness. But it’s important to understand what support the law or your company will provide should it happen to you.

Laws designed to improve the rights of people with disabilities are also affecting the way employers deal with staff who have to take long periods off work when they are sick.  


What is Statutory Sick Pay?

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is the minimum amount employers must pay an employee who is off for four days in a row or more. Contracts of employment often give rights that exceed this sum (known as contractual sick pay).

How much will I get?

The standard rate for SSP is currently £79.15 a week. Your employer will work out a daily rate of SSP if necessary by dividing the weekly rate by the number of days you’d normally work in that week.

For information on the latest regulations and rates, visit the Department for Work and Pensions website.

How long do I have to be off work before I get SSP?

You will qualify for SSP if you have been off work sick for four or more calendar days in a row, including weekends and Bank holidays. This is known as a Period of Incapacity for Work (PIW).

After the qualifying days, SSP is payable for up to 28 weeks. Within the 28-week period, an employer can stop sick pay if you return to work, resign from your job or start maternity leave. Qualifying days should be stipulated in your employment contract.

Can my employer make rules about sick pay entitlement?

If you're receiving SSP there are certain steps an employer is not allowed to take. They can't insist you phone in by a certain time of day and a medical certificate can't be requested until the eighth day of illness, for instance. The employer can, however, attach such rules to contractual sick pay.

Can the employer refuse to pay?

If you do not tell your employer immediately that you are off sick, you could lose some, or all, of your sick pay unless you have a good reason.

What happens if this sickness affects my long-term health?

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995 has improved the legal rights of anyone who can't work due to long-term illness with it's definition of disability covering "a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities". For more guidance on how the Act affects you, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

Am I entitled to see my sickness absence records?

Yes. Employers have always been required to keep records on sickness absence, but new legislation means you now have the right to see them. The Data Protection Act 1998 requires a company notifies the Data Protection Commissioner if it is processing personal data. This applies to employees' personnel files, recruitment, health, attendance and disciplinary records and any other files compiled manually by management with or without authorisation.

How can my employer help to keep me healthy?

Health and safety regulations require employers to provide health surveillance as appropriate, such as checks from an occupational health nurse for those working with chemicals.

For exposure to other health risks, such as work-related upper limb disorders, there is no such requirement, although employers should arrange a working environment analysis for anyone at a permanent workstation. Some employers will also have benefits packages which include free services such as eye tests or physiotherapy treatments.


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