Your entitlement to sick pay and how to get statutory sick pay are elements of employment contracts which many people simply ignore. Yes, these issues are relatively straightforward but there will be a degree of input from employees who fall ill. As a consequence, you need to know exactly what your employer requires to ensure that your sick pay is received in an orderly manner.
- Follow your employer’s guidelines
- Employer’s failure to advise employees on how to get statutory sick pay
- Your rights regarding employer demands
- Obtaining a sick note from your doctor
- Delays in advising your employer about your illness
- When is sick pay paid?
- Return to work/phased return
- Handling sick pay disputes
Whether as part of your employment contract, staff handbook or intranet information for employees, your employer must let you know what is you’re required to do when you’re off work ill. This includes actions such as:-
- Letting your employer know that you are ill
- Additional information required regarding your illness
At this point it is interesting to note that if you do not follow your employer’s guidelines to the letter, you may lose entitlement to additional contractual sick pay. That said, if you are ill then you will at the very least still receive statutory sick pay (SSP), assuming that you are entitled to SSP. You can check here to see if you’re entitled to sick pay.
If you are entitled to statutory sick pay there is no way that your employer can take this away from you. They may hold back or reduce additional contractual sick payments – that is their prerogative.
While unlikely, you may experience a situation where your employer is slow in coming forward or has not responded to your question about how to get statutory sick pay. There is a fairly standard procedure when it comes to reporting sickness to your employer, ensuring that you receive your sick pay entitlement:-
- Inform your employer as soon as possible you are sick and unable to work
- It is important to let your employer know your first day of sickness, even if this was a non-working day
- If you’re sickness lasts no more than 7 days then you can “self-certify” your illness. This tends to be via a formal Employees Statement of Sickness (SC2) form or other accepted document
- If your illness lasts for more than seven days then you will normally be required to obtain a doctor’s note for your employer’s records. As mentioned above, the seven-day period may include days on which you were not scheduled to work
Even though these actions are fairly straightforward it is important that you complete them within the relevant timescales. Failure to do so could cost you any contractual additional sick pay.
On one hand, it is important to maintain a relationship of mutual respect between employers and employees. On the other hand, you also need to know your rights with regards to employer demands, especially when it comes to illness.
If you are entitled to claim sick pay, and there are no additional sick payments within your employment contract, there are restrictions on the information your employer can demand. They are not allowed to:-
- Place pressure on you to contact them more than once a week during your illness
- Demand a doctor’s note before the seven-day self-certification period is up
- Insist you use a company form when advising them of your illness via the self-certification route
- Request that you call in to advise of your sickness by a specific time
- Refuse someone else reporting your sickness, in the event that you are unable to contact them
It is important to note that these restrictions relate to SSP. When it comes to additional contractual sick payments, your employer will have different rights. Many people would be surprised to see issues such as a reluctance to take instruction from third parties. Over the years, numerous employees will have come across such illegal demands from employers when reporting illness. It is important to know your rights!
In the event that your employer refuses to pay SSP, to which you are entitled, you need to make them aware of your concerns. We will cover this process later in this article.
While the traditional “sick note” is now often referred to as a “fit note” they are one and the same. If you are ill for more than seven days (including non-working days) then you will need to provide a note from your doctor. The note will confirm that you are:-
- Not fit to undertake any type of work
- May be fit enough to undertake specific work
Where a doctor suggests that you may be fit enough to undertake some work, after consultation, they will list the specific types of work for which you eligible. This places the onus on your employer to create an environment/working role which will allow you to return.
In the event that your employer is unable to make these specific changes, you will be considered unfit for work and still receive the relevant sickness pay. It is illegal for your employer to pressurise you to take on work out with the recommendations of your doctor.
It is very important to be aware of your obligations with regard to reporting illness and the timely receipt of sickness pay. If you fail to abide by your employer’s guidelines there are a number of options open to them:-
- Accept your reason for late reporting and continue with SSP and contractual sick pay as normal
- Refuse sick pay for the period of illness which was reported late
In the majority of situations, employers are relatively sympathetic to those who have experienced sickness which keeps them off work. They will of course monitor sick days and any patterns emerging amongst their workforce. If patterns do emerge, they may well request additional information and even issue warnings.
If you believe that your employer has acted incorrectly/inappropriately with regard to your late reporting of sickness, you should take professional advice. It is advisable to initially consider an informal discussion with your employer, but other options are open.
You will receive SSP and any additional contractual sick pay in the same fashion and the same time-frame as you receive normal wages. Your wage slip will refer to SSP/additional sickness payments and you will still pay national insurance and income tax where appropriate.
It is unwise to automatically assume that all employers will correctly calculate your entitlement. Check your pay and alert them to any issues as soon as possible.
Many people will be chomping at the bit to return to work after a period of illness, and a return to normality. That said, there are a number of issues to take into consideration such as employer insurance. In order to show that you are fit to work, some employers may request a doctor’s note confirming such.
Where there is a degree of rehabilitation required, it is possible that your doctor will recommend a “phased return” to the workplace. This may incorporate different employment roles in the short-term or fewer hours. You are not necessarily entitled to your “normal wages” when undertaking a phased return – this is something to discuss with your employer.
If for some reason your employer is being difficult or obstructive, with regards to your return to work, and you have the required paperwork, you should take advice.
On occasion, there may be a difference of opinion between employers and employees with regards to sick pay entitlement, the procedure and remuneration. As a consequence, it is very important to maintain your own records and ensure that all correspondence regarding sickness is recorded as part of a paper trail, where possible.
Where you have spotted a discrepancy there are numerous actions you can take:-
- Approach your employer on an informal basis, pointing out issues or errors with regards to your sick pay
- If the informal approach does not work, the next stage is a formal grievance to which your employer is legally obliged to respond
- Options after this can make it a little uncomfortable between employers and employees. This is the stage where you take advice about your next course of action
- Employment tribunals and conciliation services are the only remaining steps before legal action. On many occasions, the use of an unbiased third party can help to create a compromise solution
- Court action is the final and most serious reporting option. This offers an additional level of protection for employees who feel compromised
While the majority of errors/disagreements are sorted via an informal process, there can sometimes be genuine differences of opinion. The more formal the reporting process, the more chance of a deterioration in the working relationship between employers and employees.
At this point it is important to recognise the fact that you cannot be disadvantaged in the workplace, if you choose to protect your employment rights. Any attempt to do so is illegal and would likely result in action against your employer.
It is important to be aware of the sickness reporting process in your workplace. While the majority of employment contracts will clarify this process, on occasion it may not be part of your formal paperwork. As a consequence, you may need to ask your HR department about staff handbooks and information available on the intranet. The information will be available somewhere, although it is the responsibility of your employer to provide details. After all, it is in the best interests of all parties that you understand how to get statutory sick pay if the time comes.