Know Your Rights: What Happens When You’re Off On Long Term Sick Leave

Although it’s something that none of us like to think about, most of us will be affected by sickness at some point in our working life. In fact, according to the Office of National Statistics, the average number of days absence due to illness across all sectors in 2018 was 4.1 days.

For some of us though, long term sickness may mean that we need to take a considerably longer term period or periods than that, so it’s important to know where you stand when it comes to employment rights.

When it comes to employment, we have rights protected by law, such as Statutory Sick Pay Entitlement (SSP). Often though, we will have other rights, specific to our employer and place of employment.

What should you do if the need to take long term sick leave arises?

Firstly, read your contract carefully – Of course, you would have done this prior to signing the contract or taking up employment, but if you find yourself faced with the prospect of having to take long term sick leave it’s important to know what your employer’s policy on sickness and absence is. Generally speaking, your employer in drafting their policy, would have to consider balancing their duty of care to you in managing and supporting your recovery, and minimising the impact that your absence will have on the organisation.

It is quite often the case that your entitlement to sick leave on full pay would be only a limited number of days, if any in the early stages of your employment. You will however, accrue paid sick leave entitlement the longer that your employment lasts. This entitlement will differ from place to place.

You will usually, be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which amounts to £94.25 per week for a maximum of 28 weeks but this is only if you earn at least £118 per week and have been absent for 4 or more days.

Can I be dismissed whilst on sick leave?

The short answer is yes. Although your employer is required to make reasonable adjustments to what is expected from you in your contract, it may be the case that the nature of your illness may deem you unfit for work in your role in the future. This would only be after discussions between you and them, sometimes involving an employment representative.

Your Responsibilities?

These may differ depending on the nature of employment but these are the top things that we think you should consider:

  1. Provide Medical Evidence of the nature of your illness. This can be in the form of a Sick line or letter from your GP.
  2. Remain in contact with your employer through absence- updating them on progress / treatment etc.
  3. Attend any Occupational Health Referral made by your employer.
  4. Attend return to work interviews.
  5. Consider a phased return to work where applicable.

What about holiday entitlement?

Your right to statutory holiday entitlement should remain unaffected and you will continue to accrue holiday entitlement during the period of your sick leave.