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How to Take Sick Leave from Work

Most employers have set methods for staff to inform them when they are taking sick leave. So what kind of proof of sickness does your employer need according to employment laws?

SICK LEAVE UK: Informing your boss could be as simple as phoning in sick before a certain time of the day.

As a rule, employees can self-certify an illness for up to a week of paid sick days, according to time off work laws.

You would only need to give your employer a fit note from a doctor if you take more than 7 sick days off work.

Fit notes are also called sick notes but most workers know them as a ‘doctor’s note‘.

What happens if employees have sickness before, or during, a planned holiday from work? In this case they can choose to take that time off as sick leave instead.

Fit Note Procedure: Proof of Sickness

You must give your employer a doctor’s ‘fit note’ when you are taking sick leave for more than consecutive 7 days. The seven days in a row can include typical non-working days such as UK bank holidays and weekends.

You can get a fit note from your regular General Practitioner or from a hospital doctor. But, a doctor’s fit not could cost up to £15 if you request it before the 7th day.

Fit notes verify that the recipient has a sickness. It will also state whether employee ‘may be fit for work’ or is ‘not fit for work‘. Employees should keep the original fit note but their employer can take a copy and keep it in the work files.

There may be some other cause for employee absenteeism if it says they ‘may be fit for work‘. In this case employers should try to discuss the matter with their employee. Changing working hours or job tasks may help the employee get back to work sooner.

Note: You must treat staff as ‘not fit for work’ if no agreement gets made on any such changes.

Sick Leave Self Certification

Work managers may ask their staff to fill in a form when they return to the workplace. The ‘self-certification‘ form confirms that they were off sick for the first 7 days. You may find your employer uses their own company version of this form.

Sick Leave and Holiday Entitlement

Statutory holiday entitlement continues to get built up while taking sick leave. It accrues while an employee is away from work through sickness no matter how much time they take off work.

Any unused statutory holiday entitlement through illness can carry over into the next leave year. Being ill prior to, or during your holiday period, means you can use it as sick leave in place of your holiday entitlement.

Employees can also ask to take their paid holiday for the time that they are away from work with sickness. They might prefer this option if they do not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay benefits. All sick leave rules will still apply.

Note: Employers cannot force employees into taking annual leave if they are eligible to take sick leave.

Pay During Sick Leave

Changing holiday entitlement to sick leave means you will get SSP rates. It will also count towards the amount of holiday pay you receive, except when you:

  • Do not qualify for Statutory Sick Pay.
  • Were off work sick and received ‘occupational sick pay‘.
Return to Work after Sick Leave

In some cases, an employee may become disabled as a result of a sickness. If so, their employer should make any ‘reasonable adjustments‘ to accommodate such staff member working conditions.

These types of reasonable changes can include offering shorter working hours. There may also be a way to adapt equipment that disabled employees use in the workplace.

Employee Long Term Sick Leave

As a rule, employees become ‘long-term sick‘ when they are taking sick leave for more than four weeks. But, a long-term sick employee will still have entitlement to their annual leave.

Long Term Sick Leave Return to Work

There is help available for long-term sick employees. They can also ask their doctor or employer for a referral to the Fit for Work program. The UK Government funds the Fit for Work organisation and they can help with:

  • Advice about health and working.
  • Performing a fitness for work assessment.

Workers with long-term sickness can agree to join a return to work plan. This often includes a specific timetable for returning to work.

The return to work plan counts as proof of sickness, much like a GP fit note. In this case, employees do not need to return to their doctor for a repeat sick note.

Long Term Sickness: Dismissals

Employers have the legal right to dismiss a long-term sick employee. But, it should get considered as a last resort. Before they dismiss a staff member because of long term sickness, they must:

  • Consider whether their employee can return to the workplace. This could involve part-time working or doing flexible work. It might mean doing different or less stressful tasks at work (with training where necessary).
  • Consult with their worker when they could return to work and whether their health is likely to improve.

Note: Employees can take their case to an employment tribunal if they feel it was an unfair dismissal.

Taking Sick Leave from Work: Advice about Fit Notes, During a Holiday, and Dismissals