What to do when your employees are off sick

by Nadine de Souza

It's inevitable that at some point your employees will be ill. Ailments range from the common cold to serious illnesses. So, what do you, as their employer, have to do? What rights do your employees have?

Off sick for up to seven days

If your employee is off sick for up to seven days, you can ask them to fill in a form to confirm their illness. This is called ‘self-certification’ and you can provide your own version of this form.

Sick for longer than seven days

After seven days off work sick your employee will need a fit note from their GP or hospital doctor. The fit note says that the employee ‘may be fit for work’ or ‘not fit for work’. If it says that the employee ‘may be fit for work’, then you need to discuss the situation with them. You should consider whether there are any changes that could help the employee return to work.

Off sick for over a month

If your employee is off work for more than four weeks, then they are considered as long-term sick. It's possible to dismiss an employee who is long-term sick. This is only after you have considered whether the employee can return to work with some adjustments, such as working part time. You must also consult your employee about returning to work should their health improve. Your employee will be able to take you to an employment tribunal if you unfairly dismiss them.

Holiday pay during sick leave

Holiday is still built up while your employee is on sick leave, no matter how long they are off for. Your employee can choose to use their holiday entitlement instead of sick leave, usually because they don’t qualify for sick pay. Any holiday entitlement that isn’t used because of sickness can be carried over to the following year. If your employee is sick before or during that holiday leave, then they can take it as sick leave and take the leave another time.


If your employee becomes disabled as a result of their illness, then you are expected to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to accommodate their return to work. These could be things like working shorter hours or adapting equipment that your employee uses.

Sick pay

Your employee may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). To qualify your employee must have an employment contract; be off sick for four consecutive days (including non-working days); earn at least £111 per week; give you the correct notice; and give you proof of their illness after seven days. You can set your own notice period and your employee must tell you about their illness within this time limit. If you have no set notice period, then it will be seven days.

The rate of SSP is £87.55 per week for 28 weeks. You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme.

Other information

External links

Published on: August 1, 2014

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