Everything about sick leave in the UK

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Everyone in the UK knows that despite the stereotypes, the migrants are hard workers, but still sometimes you gets sick for a few days while working in the UK. I’ve received several questions about this, so I think today’s post is a good place to try to explain the rights of workers employed in the UK on sick leave.

Sick Leave

Workers must only provide a doctor’s note if sick leave exceeds seven days, although in some companies this may vary by contract, and you would have to go to the GP to get a certificate for sickness as of day 3 or 4.

If the employee gets sick just before or during his or her holidays, these days can be considered as sick leave instead of vacation days. A medical certificate is also required.

The “FIT NOTES” (or Sick Notes, before) of the disease are provisioned by hospital doctors or general practitioners (GPs). Depending on your doctor, you may have to pay if you are prompted for a “fit note” before the seventh day of illness.
“Fit note” certificates may reflect two concepts:

  • ‘not fit for work’
  • ‘may be fit for work’

In the second case, employees must discuss with employers or their superiors if there are options to return to the job sooner, or change schedules, tasks, etc.

Employers can provide a back to work self-form, where the worker confirms going back to his job after the sick leave of more than seven days.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Once a worker is on sick leave, he or she will not receive the salary from the company. Instead, he or she will receive a state payment of £88.45 a week, for up to 28 weeks at most. That’s about £380 per month. There is also a requirement: the worker must earn more than £112 a week at work.

I know the conditions aren’t great, but that’s how it is – so that people are not on sick leave all the time…

Some companies negotiate a “Contractual Sick Pay” that cannot be less than the SSP and may even cover almost the entire normal salary. I personally know a colleague who was on a four months sick leave due to a sports injury, and as a skilled worker, he received his whole salary during that period. However, if you work at a place like McDonald’s, you may not have this privilege.

Since the SSP is very low, barely enough to live, the worker can apply for different benefits to supplement their income during the period of illness such as the Income Support, Housing Benefits or Council Tax Reductions.

For information on how to apply for this kind of aid you should contact the Citizen Advice Bureau, where they will explain to you everything in detail and give you the requirements for each process.

Holidays during sick leave

Employees keep the days of annual leave they have assigned regardless of how long they have been on sick leave. These can be transferred to the next year.

If the employer and the employee agree, the days of holidays that haven’t been taken can be paid instead.

Back to work

The employer must make changes to the workplace of the employee returning to work activity if he or she has developed a partial disability (“disabled”) because of their work. These “reasonable” changes include flexible work, part-time, adapted tools, etc.

Long-term sickness

If the employee is on sick leave for more than four weeks, it will be considered “long-term” leave. In that case the worker may continue to take their annual leave.

However, the employer may also dismiss the worker. Before dismissing them, they must:

  • Consider whether the employee on sick leave could return to his or her job by making schedule changes or taking on a different position or less responsibility, etc.
  • Negotiate with the employee about whether he or she can return to his or her position after overcoming illness.

Should the employee be fired for a long duration sick leave, the employee is entitled to take the case to the EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL. All the information about this at: gov.uk/employment-tribunals

Other important things

Days of sick leave are monitored for each employee, to prevent them for being used as days of extra holidays (such as using Monday or Friday to extend the weekend). Disciplinary actions may be taken by the company towards the worker if he or she does not prove that he or she was sick and abused “sick days”.
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I hope this was helpful. Have you been on sick leave in the UK? What was your experience? Please leave a comment!
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